In the past few years, the halal food and modest fashion industries, as they are known, have experienced a meteoric rise in the West. This reflects not just the growth of Muslim minorities in Canada, the US, Europe, and elsewhere in terms of the population, but also the maturing of Muslim communities in the West as they find new and creative ways to express their faith, traditions and culture, and share it with their non-Muslim friends and neighbors.
The next major breakthrough, after halal food and modest fashion, just might be in the celebrations industry. Muslims living in the West take part in many celebrations throughout the year, some of which are Islamic and others that are not. The two days of Eid, in particular, are very important to Muslim communities. This is why it is surprising that they are only now beginning to explore the market for Eid-focused products beyond food (especially after Ramadan!) and clothing.
But this is starting to change. In Canada, for example, the Honey Lemon Eid project has been very successful. The project was created by Hafsa Pathan, a Canadian Muslim and public relations professional in the Toronto area. Pathan wants to make Eid as mainstream as possible for two reasons. As the mother of a young son, she wants to pass on the spirit of Eid in a creative way both to her own son and to the next generation of Muslims in the West—especially since many of them growing up finding Christmas or Valentine’s Day a lot more special than Eid. Just as importantly, she also wants Muslims to be able to share their celebration of Eid with non-Muslims.
So this year, she has found a way to achieve both of these objectives by creating accessible and affordable Eid-themed products such as Eid decor, gift wrap, plates, cups, gift bags, and more. Even though it just started, the Honey Lemon Eid project has already seen a lot of success: Chapters, a major Canadian retailer, agreed to sell Pathan’s products at one of their stores, and just in the course of Ramadan they are nearly sold out!
Pathan was keen on having her products featured at a mainstream retailer not only so that they would be more accessible to anyone who may be interested in them, but also to show these retailers that there is a demand for more Islamic lifestyle products—especially since more than 4 million Muslims live in North America and a more than 20 million in Western Europe.
Pathan isn’t the only person who recognizes the value of sharing the spirit of Eid in this way. Similar projects are underway across North America and in Europe as well. Pathan herself was inspired by two such projects, ModernEID and Hello Holy Days. ModernEID is based in the US and was created in 2011, and recently had a major breakthrough by hosting a pre-Eid shopping party Saks Fifth Avenue, one of the largest retailers in North America. ModernEID products have also been sold at Walmart—that’s about as mainstream as you can get in North America. Hello Holy Days, like Honey Lemon Eid, is based in Canada, but has a slightly different focus in that it encourages parents and children to make their own Islamic holiday-themed arts and crafts. Hello Holy Days’ work was recently featured on the website of American celebrity Martha Stewart.
Of course, success does not come without having to overcome many challenges, even from within the Muslim community. Pathan says that though she has received a lot of support from the community, she has also faced accusations that she is trying to commercialize Eid. This definitely isn’t the case. According to Pathan, her real motivation is to make Eid more mainstream and easier to celebrate. But she also hopes that creative, cultural projects such as Honey Lemon Eid will help curb Islamophobia, which is on the rise in Canada and elsewhere. Even just initiating the conversation with “Oh, what is Eid?” is a step in the right direction.
“I feel my products open the door to that conversation—talking to coworkers or friends about Eid, explaining our traditions, and sharing the food,” says Pathan, who is holding an Eid-themed party at her workplace, where most of her colleagues are non-Muslim but very supportive of Honey Lemon Eid.
And she hopes that she can inspire others to pursue similar projects. In the spirit of Eid, she says, “I’m all the about community over competition so the more the merrier!” After a very successful experience with the Honey Lemon Eid project, she is now considering making Hajj and Umrah-themed products to celebrate with those who return after performing these Islamic traditions.