Exporting Colombian Tunics To Uk Muslims Cultural Studies Essay

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The United Kingdom is a country where a lot of cultures are coexisting nowadays. One of the biggest cultural groups that has moved to this country are Muslims, who find themselves involved in a completely different law system, way of living and behaving, when they mobilize into cities such as London, Liverpool and Manchester. This creates a market segment inside this country that is not being exploited, nor targeted by Western enterprises mainly because of stereotypes and lack of understanding of the Muslim culture. However, business opportunities can be identified when analyzing the characteristics of this ethnic group and understanding the differences they may have with the Muslims living in their home countries. The cultural mix in the United Kingdom represents a business opportunity for a competitive Colombian industry that, under the precepts of the Islamic culture, it fundaments a strategy for selling manufactures and textiles under the "Halal" Guarantee.

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The Muslim population in the United Kingdom has increased since about 1980, ending up with an estimated total of 1,5 million Muslims in 2006 (date of the last census made) [1] . They have migrated from countries such as Kuwait, Lebanon, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iran, Turkey, among others, where there are strict rules of behavior within society that cause a lot of conflict of opinion with the so-called Western world. One of these is the role women play in society which is very strict inside the Muslim religion. Even Muslim women living in Western Europe countries are still attached to these rules but with one difference: there is more freedom of thought and expression for them outside their home countries.

If we analyze these women as a target market for business (based on their cultural background) we might identify good opportunities based in their customs and rituals. One of the most important things for this religion is the dressing habits of women. But this represents a problem for those Muslim women in the United Kingdom because of stereotyping against their religion, which makes enterprises (and society in general) afraid of getting involved with this culture.

This paper will analyze how this creates a good business opportunity for Colombia, in the sense that our country has an excellent textile and dress-making industry that can be exploited to develop products (such as veils, burkas and tunics) for Muslim women, who are not being included within the British society, and the way in which successful outcomes can be reached.

EXPORTING COLOMBIAN TUNICS

The United Kingdom cultural background

Throughout the 20th century, the European society has received a lot of immigrants from different parts of the world such as East Asia, Africa, Middle East and the Americas. Those people brought their own cultural backgrounds, customs and languages into the European world, which have made of Europe a salad bowl because the national culture of countries within the "old continent" has not changed or mixed with those of the immigrants drastically. For example, according to an Islamic virtual community (called Web Islam) who cites the United Nations as their source, about 2,5% of the United Kingdom´s actual population is Muslim (which represents about 1,5 million people out of a population of about 60 million). This means that there is an important amount of Muslims who are interacting on a daily basis with the native people in the United Kingdom; however, they seem to have a non-territorial identity because their behavior is not shaped by their relation to a specific territory, instead, there are certain things such as religion that keeps the Muslim community together and shapes their insertion within society.

Nevertheless, the Muslim community has also faced certain difficulties in Europe because of stereotyping and xenophobia. In the particular case of the United Kingdom, these concepts became very strong after the terrorist attacks on July 7, 2005 in London. According to a Spanish online newspaper (larazón.es), after these events the stereotype of relating Islam with terrorism has grown until a rate of 50% in the United Kingdom. But xenophobia is a two direction phenomenon in this case. In England, "at least three female Muslim schools are forcing all their students to cover their face with a veil or a burka" [2] . This shows the Muslims rejection of the western culture because they do not want to follow the western clothing but they want to preserve their dressing habits due to the symbolism they represent for Islam.

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But this multiculturalism that is found in the United Kingdom might give us an erroneous idea about the concept of pluralism. Although there are many people from different cultures living there, many ethnic minorities such as Muslims and Arabs are not taken into account and are sometimes rejected due to stereotypes. As the president of the National Association of British Arabs in the United Kingdom expressed, "their exclusion from official statistics means that major future planning and development issues do not include this group" [3] . This tells us that British people are being indifferent to the idea of having Muslims living inside their country; they do not recognize that this ethnic minority is adding value to their society and are not completely tolerant with them.

Hofstede´s Dimensions

According to Geert Hofstede, the Arab world is divided into seven different countries: Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Kuwait and Libya. But the idea of collecting and expressing all the information (Hofstede´s four dimensions) as if they were one country might be confusing when analyzing the Arab world for business purposes. However, this classification may give an idea of the basic aspects one needs to consider when negotiating in this "world".

If we take a closer look to the graph provided below, we will find that there are important differences with the United Kingdom that have to be taken into account. In the first place, Hofstede classifies the Arab World with a ranking of 80 in power distance and 68 in uncertainty avoidance. This means that it is hard for people inside these countries to move upward in their social scales and that the hierarchies that exist are highly respected. Also, the idea of uncertainty avoidance tells us that Arabs have a law-oriented society with very strong and respected rules, and that it is difficult for new leaders to be accepted because authority is often imposed. On the other hand, the United Kingdom has a lower ranking (35) on both aspects. This means that hierarchies are much more flat and that there are not such strong rules.

Another important information that Hofstede provides to study a culture are masculinity and individualism indicators. In the case of the Arab World, he gives a ranking of 52 and 38, respectively. If we compare this masculinity with the world average of 50,2, "This would indicate that while women in the Arab World are limited in their rights, it may be due more to the Islamic religion rather than a cultural paradigm" [4] . In the case of the United Kingdom, it has a ranking of 66 in masculinity, but it is not related with religious issues and there is more possibility for Muslim women to wear lighter and different clothing than inside the Arab World.

Descripción: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/graphs/5dgraph.php?c1=United+Kingdom&pdi1=35&idv1=89&mas1=66&uai1=35&ltp1=25&c2=Arab+World&pdi2=80&idv2=38&mas2=52&uai2=68&ltp2=0

Source: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php?culture1=94&culture2=4

After making a cultural analysis about the United Kingdom and the Arab World, we also consider it is important to include countries such as Iran because it is analyzed separately by Hofstede. The reason for this consideration is that the Iranian woman may become an excellent target market for our product. "Recently the 2006 Labour Force Survey (LFS) reports an estimate of around 61,000 Iranians in the UK by country of birth. The jump in the LFS data may largely be due to the large increase in asylum applications since 2000" [5] . Also, although Iran is a Muslim country, it is more "open minded" than other Muslim countries. This can be concluded after observing Hofstede`s analysis of both, especially in the masculinity and uncertainty avoidance categories which are lower for Iran, suggesting that Iranians have more tolerance towards change and the unknown, and that women have a more active role in society and less strict rules.

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Descripción: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/graphs/5dgraph.php?c1=Arab+World&pdi1=80&idv1=38&mas1=52&uai1=68&ltp1=0&c2=Iran&pdi2=58&idv2=41&mas2=43&uai2=59&ltp2=0

Source: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php?culture1=4&culture2=44

Similarities and differences with Colombia

Although we are not planning to sell our product in the Colombian market, it would be important for us to understand the differences and similarities we have with the Arabic countries, especially those who are Muslim. One of the most important things one has to consider when negotiating with these countries is the huge difference there is in terms of religion and the deep ties both cultures have to it.

In the case of Islam, there are five pillars that guide the human behavior according to their sacred book, the Koran. These pillars are so deeply tied up within the Muslim religion that in some cases (such as Saudi Arabia and Iran) their laws are also tied to the Koran, until a point where there is an important certification, called "Halal", that is given to all those products that Muslims can consume.

On the other hand, the most accepted religion in Colombia is Catholicism. Although it also has certain behavior guidelines, this religion is not involved in the Colombian laws and there are no religion-based certificates for commercial goods.

When comparing Colombia with the Arab world in the graph provided below, we can observe that Arabs have higher power distance and individualism, which means that there are more strict social hierarchies and fewer opportunities to change the own social status than in Colombia. Also, as it is a trend in Latin American countries, our society is more collectivistic. But the bigger differences are found in the masculinity and uncertainty avoidance rankings which are higher in the Colombian case. But, it is important to consider that both countries are located above the world average in masculinity (according to Hofstede) and that they have high indexes of uncertainty avoidance, which means both cultures are risk intolerant and that they are afraid of changing their actual status and ways of behaving.

Descripción: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/graphs/5dgraph.php?c1=Colombia&pdi1=67&idv1=13&mas1=64&uai1=80&ltp1=0&c2=Arab+World&pdi2=80&idv2=38&mas2=52&uai2=68&ltp2=0

Source: http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php?culture1=19&culture2=4

Business idea and its implementation

Our business idea consists on selling tunics with different fashionable designs to Muslim women in the United Kingdom, without letting aside their cultural background and dressing preferences.

Women in the high class of the Islamic society only wear dresses with occidental styles for their husbands and close relatives, when they abandon their tunics or robes they use to wear on the streets.

However, in the United Kingdom there is a new fashionable trend for the Muslim market while maintaining their precepts of the faith they profess. We would like to design tunics and robes that break the monotony of their simple robes with embroideries made in Colombia, getting a profit over the Colombian textile and dressmaking and clothing industry where Colombia has a competitive advantage due to the strength and quality ok its dress-making production, features that are recognized globally.

We would like to sell embroideries with stones, crystals and nice colors, although the black has to be preserved because some Muslim women are still conservative and, besides, the black would never go out of fashion.

Nevertheless, we must take into account that Muslim women are not able to wear any garment to show off and to attract someone's attention, meaning that it is prohibited for them to wear any outrageous clothing. Indeed, in order to remain concealed, women are biased to always wear black clothing because the vibrant colors, which are the ones that stand out over the rest, and also the clothing designs and the expensive garment, are considered as different ways to enhance striking trivialities in the society.

However, as we intend to make the tunics for them under the "Halal" guarantee, it is then possible for us to reach the Muslim market and get the attraction and the women's intention to buy our product.

Today's Muslims understand the "Halal" as "a lifestyle, a global and integral concept that influences and affects the daily matters, such as the feeding, the hygiene, the healthiness, the economy, and even the notions to get dress. In a broad sense, this certificate refers to what is permitted or allowed and, therefore, it is beneficial and healthy for human beings, favoring a better quality of life and avoiding any risk for health" [6] .

The "Halal" certification is "developed under the strict performance of the Islamic Law as regards to what is considered allowed, ethical and well-balanced" [7] . Under its focus, there are eight different sectors for its application: Feeding, Restaurants and Hotels, Economy and Finances, Pharmacy and Hygiene, Cosmetics and Perfumery, Fashion and Design Halal, Cities and Halal Tourism, Contents, Publications and Publicity. [8] 

When talking about "Fashion and Design Halal", it means that "the clothing fulfills in relation with the type of adequate fabric, measures and shapes" [9] 

Taking it into account and adjusting ourselves to the Islamic regulations and rules based on the Koran, the traditions of the prophet and the country's legislation, the tunics will be made under certain specific characteristics so that it fulfills the requirements of the "Halal" and then get its way through the market.

Indeed, the robes would be made loose-fitting in order to hide the body's shape and avoid attracting public attention. Also, women's hair must be covered which would be included in the tunic's designing processes.

The fabrics that will be used for the production of the robes cannot be those used by the non-Muslim people because "when a Muslim person does or uses something to resemble a non-Muslim person, it is consider as an imitation, which is prohibited under the Islam" [10] . The fabrics that cannot be used are: silk, translucent fabrics, and those exclusive of the non-Muslims. However, is these fabrics are "used in a different way from the non-Muslims, then there is anything wrong with it, as long as they are made in a different way" [11] 

Besides, the decoration in the garment won't have any portrait or someone's image [12] . "The decorated clothing is allowed as long as it doesn't have images of living beings, whether they're human or not". [13] All of these requirements would be taken into account on the making process.

Additionally, it is very positive for our business idea the fact that United Kingdom has low power distance and uncertainty avoidance because Muslim women living in the United Kingdom might feel they enjoy much more freedom than in their home country, which may encourage them to open their minds to less strict customs and to wear lighter clothing. So, they could become our customers.

Finally, the marketing strategy we intent to use to sell in a salad bowl like the United Kingdom market, would be a generalized approach, meaning that it will be focused on the Muslim women in general, without getting too specific in their homeland and their specific perceptions of dressing styles, like the Iranian and Lebanese Muslim women who tend to perceive the dressing concepts in a different way than the rest of the women, because they are more freed in the sense that they like adopting fashionable styles and wearing what it pleases them, leaving aside a portion of the conservative paradigms imposed by the Islamic traditions and believes. This strategy will be performed in order to reduce costs, expenses, and selling efforts.

A good way to reach our market segment can be the "Emel Magazine", which is a magazine targeted at the Muslim population inside the United Kingdom. In there, it is possible to find everything related to their lifestyles (including clothing trends and fashion shows), so it would be a good media to promote our product. Also, it is important to consider the location of our stores, which will be located nearby the Muslim communities so that they can have a constant interaction with it.

CONCLUSIONS

The cultural and religious concepts influence in a big extent the consuming behavior and strongly shape the business outcomes. Success may be achieved when the cultural differences are seen as an opportunity, as long as such differences are never let aside. Instead, it is of prime importance to deeply analyze them as a guideline to create strategies and furthermore, competitive advantages.

The Colombian textile and dress-making strength can be internationalized by penetrating the United Kingdom market. However, it has a broad cultural mix determined by a salad bowl, since the immigration flux this country has passed through.

After some cross-cultural interactions, it becomes interesting how new trends are being presented, which represents shifts in the Muslim paradigms and gives women new forms to express themselves.

The "Halal" guarantee becomes the structure that shapes the strategy in the negotiation and commercialization of tunics for Muslims women. This certificate acts as a way to preserve the Islamic traditions and principles as an exercise of what is permitted under the Muslims culture.