Marketing and Competing Essentialisms

Picture 2An Idaho company has demonstrated the marketing power of a little religious studies knowledge, producing Jihawg Ammo, which is coated in pork-infused paint. The company asserts, “With Jihawg Ammo, you don’t just kill an Islamist terrorist, you also send him to hell. That should give would-be martyrs something to think about before they launch an attack.” The company tags the product “Peace through pork” because it “promotes peace through the natural deterrence of pork infused ballistic coating.”

Beyond the problem of associating contemporary threats with “radical Islam,” the logic of their marketing essentializes would-be martyrs as drawing their motivations entirely from the dictates of Islam. Thus, the deterrent can equally come from the dictates of Islam. Taking one concept from a World Religions textbook, “Muslims consider pork haram,” they use it to deter an “enemy,” whom they construct as a devout, orthodox being simply interested in reaching paradise. This representation completely divorces violent actions such as 9/11 from any other motivations.

Unfortunately, scholarly responses to such assertions can be similarly essentializing. A professor at Gonzaga University refutes the company’s assertions by (as represented in the Huffington Post) saying, “There is no penalty for coming into contact with pork given by the Quran” and “To my knowledge, Muslims, especially unknowingly, would not be banned from heaven for eating or getting hit by pork.” If we argue with essentialized visions of Islam such as the makers of Jihawg Ammo employ on the grounds of correct interpretations of Islamic law, then we reinforce the concept that people who identify as Muslim find their motivation in the properly interpreted dictates of Islam. Such representations, which also apear in academic discourse about religions, encourage people to assert that all Muslims follow whatever conception of Islam that those making the assertion have become convinced is authoritative. With that bit of knowledge, the marketing becomes easy.

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