Companies try marketing to Muslims amid Ramadan

LOS ANGELES - The Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which ends with Eid ul-Fitr, or the Feast of Fast-Breaking, is gaining ground as a target of PR campaigns and product launches aimed at reaching ethnic audiences.

Companies from Ikea to Hallmark are staging low-key efforts around the holiday, which began this year on October 26 and will continue to November 25.

Hallmark this year launched a series of Eid ul-Fitr greeting cards, which it says have garnered strong sales as well as coverage from newspapers around the country, despite deliberate attempts at a low-profile launch.

"We got an incredible amount of publicity that we were not expecting," Hallmark senior publicist Deidre Parkes said. "I almost feel like I talked to every single paper in the US."

Ikea's Canadian outlets also crafted a campaign around entertaining during Ramadan, featuring items such as trays for serving sweets. That campaign, however, was not carried over to the US, where only a single non-specific holiday catalogue is the focus of winter-season initiatives.

PR efforts around Ramadan also extend beyond corporations, as members of the House of Representatives hosted the first-ever "iftar," or fast-breaking, on Capitol Hill last week. Some in the Muslim community expressed concern that the holiday could be exploited, but the attention was generally viewed as a sign of positive outreach.

"This event will provide an excellent opportunity for elected officials and congressional staffers to learn more about the American Muslim community and the significance of Ramadan," said Hasan Mansori, governmental relations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "It will also send a message of tolerance and respect for religious diversity."

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