As her 3-year-old daughter sat inside a Target red shopping cart, Aya Kalil looked through the baskets expectantly. The author of the mission was: See for yourself that a children’s book about a boy and his grandmother cooking for an Islamic festival was actually delivered by a local store in Toledo.
“Oh my God! … It’s right,” Kalil said in the spotting “The night before Eid.”
“Oh yeaaaaah!” cried his daughter with joy. Kalil giggled.
For Kalil, she was the author of the pinch me moment – and great as a mother.
“That didn’t happen when I was growing up. It was like, ‘Have they changed now?'” she said. “I’m just really happy that now my kids will be able to see it, and they’ll know that their stories are valid and like things are totally normal out there.”
This year the Muslim holy month of the Lord ramadan which launched last week, Target has rolled out its first dedicated Ramadan and Eid collection, including jewelry with moon cutouts and lantern-shaped pieces. It is one of the most recent brands of large retailers in the United States catering to the needs of Muslim shoppers.
Many Muslim Americans eagerly embraced the recognition, applauding retailers who made it easier to bring cheer to their families because it ubiquitously and publicly marked some holidays of other faiths.
“As stores have adapted to Easter and Christmas For ages, I’m glad to see them bring in Ramadan items,” said Hass Beydoun of Castles in Dearborn, Michigan. “We appreciate the fact that we take our humanity and beliefs into account.”
Others echoed the sentiment on Target’s website: “Thank you so much for Ramadan decor,” one shopper wrote. “We have seen and heard,” wrote another.
However, some have argued the merits of buying Ramadan decor from big box retailers in America, where Muslims make up a small but growing part of the population, encouraging representation, versus supporting small Muslim businesses that have made such. Others are careful not to trade too much in religion.
Ramadan is a month of fasting, worship and increased charity. It is often time for festive gatherings; On social media, some share photos of their decorated homes or exchange ideas for DIY Ramadan decoration and activities for children. Ramadan is followed by the holiday of Eid al-Fitr.
Target’s new Ramadan and Eid collection is sold online and in a few hundred stores in areas with the most Muslim shoppers. The retailer, which did not provide sales figures, said it had received positive feedback from shoppers and that the collection was part of its commitment to diversity and inclusion.
The party supplies vendor started selling urban Ramadan and Eid items in 2018 and since such products have increased amid the growing demand. More than 280 stores, primarily in areas with large Muslim populations, carry items that include string lamps and table runners reading “Ramadan Mubarak” or “Happy Ramadan.”
“Our goal is to offer authentic and inclusive celebration options to all of our customers, especially those who are represented in the retail industry,” said Susan Sanderson, Mayor Party City’s president of brand marketing.
However, that is a change from when Jomana Siddiqui received an Eid present in a Christmas gift wrap 2011; At the time, Siddiqui, whose business is based in Fullerton, California, said he had not seen American retailers carry merchandise during Ramadan or Eid. She tried to get malls and stores to have signage recognizing Muslim holidays but was rebuffed.
From 2014 to 2016, she worked with Macy’s South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, California to design the display towers for the “Happy Ramadan” event. In 2018, he began selling his products at a pop-up shop at Macy’s in Westminster, California.
Even now, Siddiqui is trying to convince major retailers to sell fresh-style items like “Ramadan Blessings” trays – and Ramadan and Eid-appropriate gift wrapping sheets. He contends that many retailers treat Muslim Americans, who are racially and culturally diverse, as monoliths and says they avoid cultural stereotypes.
“Putting camels and palm trees on something doesn’t speak to Indonesian Muslims or Mexican Muslims,” he said.
Fatima Siddiqui, who lives in the metro Detroit area and owns a calligraphy art business, wrote on Facebook that amid the bustle of vendors carrying Ramadan decorations, community members should not forget to support small Muslim businesses.
Answers vary. Some shoppers said that while supporting such businesses is important, so buying from large, national to encourage greater representation and to celebrate Muslim children. Others contended that the kits offered by many small businesses are often too expensive or that large retailers are too convenient. Others recommend buying from both.
“Why didn’t retailers want to partner with small businesses to showcase their products with thoughtful signage?” said Fatima Siddiqui. This year, he established a Ramadan market in Canton, Michigan, where vendors sell items including flags, wreaths, and serving platters.
“Ramadan decoration boosts our emotions and mood,” he said. “It helps our young people feel special because of the obvious manifestations of Christmas and other non-Islamic holidays.”
The decor sparks educational conversations with non-Muslims, said Yasmen Bagh, who lives in Jersey City and runs an outdoor business selling inflatable figures as well as mosques and lanterns.
“It creates awareness for your neighbors,” he said. “The images that they see on TV and what Muslims look like are usually like the bad guy; that’s changing.”
Bagh was competing for big sales during Ramadan and Eid. “As a Muslim, it makes me happy; as a business owner, I worry.
Other business owners say there is room for everyone. And while some Muslims argue that the focus on beauty and other material things can distract from the spiritual essence of the month, others say that the balance can be struck and that they can occupy the child with the help of products.
Retailers gradually paid more attention to Muslim customers. Macy’s sells modest clothing, including hijabs. Nike unveiled the hijab for Muslim female athletes in 2017, sparking mixed reactions and debate about inclusivity in sports. Other active brands have followed suit with their athletic hijabs. As of 2021, Mattel has sold an American Girl brand of Eid al-Fitr celebration clothing, which includes a long-sleeved Turkish abaya dress, for its 18-inch dolls.
The move to embrace Muslim shoppers is part of a broader strategy by retailers to better connect with different generations of customers. Some critics dismiss the effort as a marketing ploy to boost the bottom line.
Sabiha Ansari, co-founder and president of the American Muslim Consortium, a non-profit dedicated to developing the American Muslim trade market, said she doesn’t know if the goal is to make dollars. Societies happily include those societies that cater to Muslims.
“People need to be recognized,” he said.
Back in Toledo, the author Calil said his book, first, for the children of Muslims and, even adults, who did not see themselves in books. It tells the story of Zain, who helps his grandmother who is visiting from Egypt, where Kalil was born, bake a traditional cookie covered in powdered sugar for a holiday. He deals with his classmates, who love him.
For this Ramadan, Khalil decorated his house with lamps, lanterns and signs, mainly from small businesses. Her kids also painted a craft kit that one bought at Target.