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"That's why we have been in a position to draw some revenue from [Islamica] in terms of advertising. Now we're selling real estate on the site, because it's got so many eyes on it," says Baig. They've sold ad space to Muslim companies like Azizah Magazineand Crave Halal Foods and have done promos for DeVry University, Citibank and eBay. Their goal is to push for more mainstream businesses like Gap, BMW and Subway. "These guys don't realize that Muslims prefer a lot of these businesses, so they don't see the value in advertising to them, but the numbers are there.
"I don't want to exploit the Muslim market, but generally advertisers have overlooked it, and there's a value in the Muslim market, and the Muslim entity is here to stay," says Baig.
For now, a consulting gig with an interactive marketing firm in Chicago is keeping him afloat. He's hoping that Islamica, which takes up much of the workweek, eventually will be profitable enough to be their main source of income.
"This is something we know we can live off of," says Abdul-Majeed.
"When it all boils down, we're expressionists and we're looking for ways to just kind of create and do things," says Ahmed. "Anybody that's in the creative arts is looking to just find any way to make people laugh and smile. And thankfully we've had a lot of opportunities."
When Baig's father came to Houston, he built something concrete: a cultural foundation of mortar and bricks. He was part of the generation that fostered the Adel Road mosque from a trailer park in the 1980s to the proud structure it is today.
What Mirza Baig builds is less tangible, less literal, and what he hopes to leave future generations is meant not to stand the test of time, but rather to change with the times.
"You got two steps of the evolutionary process right there, in terms of the establishment of the institutions and then the flavoring," he says. "I guess we're the icing on the cake."