Commercialization of Mecca

Posted on December 8, 2012 by


Catriona Davies and Latifa Azdi, “Paris Hilton whips up a storm in holy Mecca”, CNN, 11/21/12
The article “Paris Hilton whips up a storm in holy Mecca” was written by co-authors Catriona Davies and Latifa Azdi, for CNN on Wednesday, November 21, 2012. The article covered the shocking – or not so shocking – news of the opening a store selling luxury items of Paris Hilton’s line of clothing in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. This does not sit well with many in Mecca, which attracts three million Muslim pilgrims from around the world every year during the time of the Hajj, a religious journey part of the Islamic faith that every Muslim must endure according to the five pillars of the faith. However, the combination of Hilton’s personal image with the holiest city in the Muslim world has riled some in the conservative kingdom. To some, it’s the combination of the location of the store, who Paris Hilton is, and what she stands for. The article makes an argument of the incredible disbelief of many Muslims and the readers of this article that Paris Hilton would be so disrespectful, with her main thoughts on herself and her desires for her brand to increase in popularity as its name is spread across the world, from pole to pole.


The first impressions of the headline of the article gives the reader a sense of what Paris Hilton’s personality might be like. The headline, “Paris Hilton whips up a storm in holy Mecca”, gives Paris an image not many would want. It is as if Paris Hilton is a natural disaster, like a tornado, that is ripping through a city very holy and precious to many of the Islamic faith. From the first paragraph in the article, “As an American socialite and hotel heiress, Paris Hilton has built up a global brand on her sexy image — and sometimes very few clothes.” The next paragraph reports that many believe she has gone a step too far in opening a store selling luxury items in the Muslim holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Nearly one in four people are Muslim. The range of the impact of Paris’s decision to create a store in the heart of a holy city is very broad and has a vast range from person to person. The general consensus can be assumed her decision has created very strong, negative opinions about her stores, and even her own character as a person. There is disagreement of whether the creation of her store was right or wrong. It was a brilliant move in terms of marketing, but one needs to consider all impacts of something when analyzing it. Considering the strength of the Islamic faith in many and the immense number of people belonging to this faith, one can simply guess at the number of unhappy people. It takes a person with very little compassion to alter so many people in this way, and to do it for the reasons Paris used is just plain incredible to some Muslims. Reading her tweets, one can easily sense Paris’s goals and mindset, being her desire to increase the popularity of her stores and her name across the global, increasing her fame and her wealth. In the end, it’s made a lot of people think about the bigger issue of the commercialization of Mecca where historic sites have been demolished to make way for modern malls and international brands. For many it’s further evidence of how the character of Mecca is being lost.


Within the article, the word “luxury” is used multiple times, giving the implication of the lacking of necessity in Paris Hilton’s fabulous designer purses and handbags. It is not the store itself that is out of place in Mecca — the presence of Western luxury brands is nothing new in Saudi Arabia. It is located “in the new Makkah Mall, which opened in 2011 with 255 shops, many of them global chains, selling everything from jewelery to electronics, women’s fashion to sportswear. It even has a branch of the lingerie chain La Senza.” These are things you would simply not expect to find in one of the most holy cities on the planet, in terms of the number of people who find it holy. The article describes Paris as an American social butterfly, and describes her career goals as to build up a brand in her name with universal acknowledgement and also associating the name with “her sexy image –and sometimes very few clothes.”
The sources in the article consisted of many quote from the common people, such as a Saudi host on Middle East Broadcasting Center (MBC), a Moroccan writer, a Saudi nursing student, and many others. Sources also include tweets from Paris Hilton herself. It is unknown if the authors of the article collected opinions from more people than appearing in the article, but he seems to speak for all of the population. The authors interviewed with people with much diversity, but so few would not accurately represent a population.
Emotions are extremely strongly shown in this coverage. Paris, some might believe, is verging on being the most passively disrespectful one could possibly be to a group. For some, the outrage was more about the ongoing commercialization of the heritage of Mecca than Hilton herself. For others, her actions were simply unbelievable. In the article, one exclaims, ”If it was in our hands we would have closed all of her shops in Saudi.” Another said in a tweet, “So Paris Hilton opened a handbag store in Mecca? The world is a corrupt place at the moment. Someone please send me to Mars.” Muna AbuSulayman, a Saudi host on MBC wrote: “Huge outrage on Paris Hilton shop in Mecca Mall! With or against? Or, don’t care? Personally I am against the (Disneyfication) of Mecca.” This is just a small portion of the population angry or frustrated with Paris.


There does not seem to be many constraints on news media coverage, but the authors from the article themselves had troubles recording the full story. CNN made several attempts in making calls to the Paris Hilton Shop headquarters in the United States, but none were returned or answered. This impacts the accuracy of the viewpoint the reader of the article may develop, because the reader would not know the entire story, both from the Muslims and people affiliated with the Paris Hilton store. Though this particular side is not accurately represented, one can only guess that no matter what was said, it would not fix what has happened. Many people would still be upset over the issue, and depending on what Paris Hilton Shop headquarters had to say, people may even become even more angry or disturbed.


The general attitude in regards to religion in consequence to the release of this coverage arouses a strong sympathetic emotion towards it and all the people that fall under the category of this particular faith. Readers of the article may feel anger toward Paris Hilton for some of the same reasons, even if they aren’t Muslim. She gives off the essence of ignorance toward the impact she is making, affecting the majority of Muslims in some way or another. People tend to take sides when such an article is presented to them, and the way the article was written clearly made Paris appear in the bad light. Readers might soften in heart, knowing the unrest the issue has caused. The people the most irritated by Paris might possibly be the ones of strong faith. Strong faith takes commitment, and faith is a personal value to some. A reader, no matter of what belief system, could make a connection to Muslims through the commonality of holding values and being committed to something. Paris building a store in Mecca is sending a strong signal to the Muslims, one which shows her ignorance of their pain and demonstrates her indifference to whether or not her actions would upset them. Her indifference shown by her actions in disturbing Muslim’s peaceful religious rituals, in which are seen as a commitment and a value to Muslims.


One might be able to find the coverage through the picture at the very beginning. The picture depicts Paris Hilton in a very little dress and heels on top of the hood of a fancy red car. Someone searching pop culture might be able to also come across this article. The title of the article is very intriguing too, captivating the imagination in the question of what Paris could possibly be up to in Mecca. It also helps that she is a celebrity – people care about what happens to her and what she does, what trouble she gets into and any other tidbit they can learn about her personal life. No matter whether Paris owns a store in Mecca or not, there will continue to be people able to appreciate who she is, though there may be very few genuine Muslim fans.

Monica Johnson

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