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british writers vs. muslim writers - comparison of their view of muclim communities in GB
Thread poster: Veronika Hansova

Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
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Jun 28, 2006

Dear all Prozians,
I am about to write a longer essay on comparison on contemporary British authors and their views, attitudes and descriptions of Muslim communities in GB. More specifically, I would like to base my work on comparison of "white" British fiction authors (native Anglo-Saxons) and Muslim fiction authors (either born in GB, or immigrants). I am aware of the difference between Muslim authors who might be completely secular and critical in their views of the Muslim communities and those Muslim authors that could be unilateral and very devoted to the lifestyle in the communities. I prefer comparing two extremes since the work as a whole must be in this comparative mood. I searched the net but I could not find many suitable books. Would you give me some hints? I will also appreciate any recommendations and pieces of advice concerning the choice of my topic, focus etc.
Thank you very much in advance.
Veronika.


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
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Muslim author Jun 28, 2006

Probably Salman Rushdie is one of the most famous muslim authors

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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
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writing the essay.... Jun 28, 2006

Well, for those grounded in the academia, the first thing to consider would be to define the scope of the essay. I think a mere comparison between 'british writers' and 'muslim writers' is it itself quite probably a flawed one.... for the simple reason that you will have to define two important terms-- 'britishness' and 'muslimness' and both of which could be very tough to prove/establish.... even the mere fact of 'whiteness' [colour] need not be the sole ground for such a distinction.
-------xxxxx----------

As far as books are concerned:: you will need to scan through the output by 'contemporary writers' as you define them... and are you talking only of writers of literature or are you going to widen your scope?

Roomy


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xxxMarc P  Identity Verified
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Terminology Jun 28, 2006

Veronika,

Start by choosing your terminology carefully. Most muslims in Britain are British (in contrast to the situation in some other countries), so your contrasting of "British" and "muslim" could be interpreted as a political statement in its own right. Some people use "British" to refer to citizenship and "English", "Scottish", "Pakistani", etc. to refer to ethnicity, but if you are going to write a comparative literature study, you really ought to find out for yourself what conventions are used, how they are viewed in the respective communities, and possibly include a brief discussion of the terminology in your essay.

Marc


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Ouadoud  Identity Verified
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Methodology issues Jun 28, 2006

Hello Veronika,

I think you may face difficulties in gathering writers under the name of Muslim writers.

It's much easier for British and mainly white British writers.

In fiction topics, differences between Islamic writers may be so huge and cathegoric that I cannot understand how will you do to put them in the same basket.

I don't think that an Indian Muslim fiction writer, has much to do with a Tunisian Muslim fiction writer. There are surely some common points and backgrounds, but I'd need a lifetime to study and analyze and classify them.

Another barrier is the language. The enterprise could have been more feasable if you study Muslim writers who write in Arabic (250 millions) , but in English, you encompass a population of 1.4 billion persons.

But then - even though in Arabic - there's another complication: Muslim writer means something completely different from what you intend. They are writers who write about islam (pro or against; explaining or arguing; fondamentalists or secular...)

The methodology problem I see is the following: there's an idea, Muslim vs British writers, and the essay is trying to bring a complex reality inside that idea. It's like trying to load a camel and a horse in a car. They're saying this is not our environment, put we have to load them inside the car...

I agree with Marc about terminology and Roomy about the scope of teh research.

I would go study the reality and from there on, find out the idea of my essay.

I don't pretend that I understand everything about this topic, just because I'm Muslim, but that is my point of view,

Hope it helps,

Salaam,

Ouadoud


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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
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agreed... Jun 28, 2006

MarcPrior wrote:

Veronika,

Start by choosing your terminology carefully. Most muslims in Britain are British (in contrast to the situation in some other countries), so your contrasting of "British" and "muslim" could be interpreted as a political statement in its own right. Some people use "British" to refer to citizenship and "English", "Scottish", "Pakistani", etc. to refer to ethnicity, but if you are going to write a comparative literature study, you really ought to find out for yourself what conventions are used, how they are viewed in the respective communities, and possibly include a brief discussion of the terminology in your essay.

Marc


Your point is valid, Marc. The concept might be a good one for the essay but its implementation has to be careful.

In 2002, Professor Mushirul Hasan** and Professor M Asaduddin published a book, Image and Representation: Stories of Muslim Lives in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2002. ISBN: 019566261X. This book was edited by them and it comprised short stories from various Indian languages which were translated into English but stories that dealt with the representation of Muslims... I translated one of the stories there.

This is a link to the Columbia University course...
http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00fwp/islam_course.html
and Prof. Frances Pritchett is a well known South Asia studies scholar.

** Professor Mushirul Hasan is the Vice Chancellor of the University where I work, http://jmi.ac.in/vc-profile.htm and is a well known historian. Looking through his works might help.

Also, it could be useful if you looked into the work of the great African American scholar, Henry Louis Gates Jr on Race and Ethnicity. There was a special Critical Inquiry issue... on this edited by him yrs ago... was it 1985?

Roomy


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Roomy Naqvy  Identity Verified
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true...muslims of various lands Jun 28, 2006

In 1905, Lord Curzon tried to partition of Bengal on the basis of religion... Hindu Bengal and Muslim Bengal... and he faced a lot of resistance from the Hindu Bengalis... not so much from the Muslims in Kashmir or elsewhere... simply because there was nothing common between the Muslims of Kashmir and those of Bengal.
---------xxxxxx-----

Similarly, Ouadoud has a point...lets sample some 'muslim' writers:

The well known, Orhan Pamuk from Turkey, Salman Rushdie from Britain, Nuruddin Farah from Somalia...Daud Haider from Bangladesh....

and I can quote more... what is common between them?
-----xxxx------
Now, suppose, I wish to do an essay on 'christian' writers... then what is common between James Joyce and Jose Rizal, though both could be termed as 'contemporaries'?

Roomy


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Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
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Perhaps I should restrict the scope of the essay Jun 29, 2006

Thank you all for your comments, my idea of the essay is still in its infancy and so I will consider all your points and comments. One of my colleagues has been working on PhD. with the topic: Islam in British literature, which I consider even harder. Therefore I wanted to focus on authors' views of the Muslim community. And if I am talking about community, I am talking more or les about their normal life, common everyday problems. If you think I should limit myself to certain ethnical group, then I would probably avoid the Pakistani since many books and essays were already written on them. Perhaps on the Near East Muslims since I have been in touch with them several times during the last years (working as a tour guide there in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon etc.).
The problem is that it simply has to be a comparative work. However, I will discuss it with the university dean again.

To MarcPrior, thank you very much for your point, I have the idea of this problem in my head but I have not been yet able to define it properly and you gave it the name. I will think about it for sure. I would like to use the term "Muslims" since it includes not only the religious point of view but also the cultural one. Yet, your're right that it has nothing to do with political citizenship. as compared to that term there is probably the "Christian" term but I would like to avoid it. So then I moved to the level of politics: Middle East writers vs. English? Anglo-Saxon? I will discuss it with my colleagues too.

Anyway, now I would like to read some of the books, preferrably, fiction, novels. No poetry, no philosophical essays. I would like to learn about the problem from fiction, from the literature intended for general public and not just for the limited number of poetry-readers or philosophers.
To sum it up, I will need to look for articles, books and essays discussing the actual problem of Muslim communities and ethnical diversity in GB (for the beginning of the essay, for the sake of terminology etc.). Then I would like to pick - let's say- ten contemporary famous British authors. Half of them with British-English-European-Christian-Anglo-Saxon... background (the adjective being subject of separate research ) and half of them coming from Near East, Muslims, either born in the GB or immigrants living there. Is there any help for me?


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Angus Woo
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Exactly Jun 29, 2006

MarcPrior wrote:

Veronika,

Start by choosing your terminology carefully. Most muslims in Britain are British (in contrast to the situation in some other countries), so your contrasting of "British" and "muslim" could be interpreted as a political statement in its own right. Some people use "British" to refer to citizenship and "English", "Scottish", "Pakistani", etc. to refer to ethnicity, but if you are going to write a comparative literature study, you really ought to find out for yourself what conventions are used, how they are viewed in the respective communities, and possibly include a brief discussion of the terminology in your essay.

Marc


Veronika, you need to define what exactly you are trying to compare first. That is what do you mean by "Muslims"? Do you mean British subjects living in GB or do you mean Muslims who in fact are not the citizens of the country?

Is the line drawn according to citizenship or according to ehtnicity?

Without a clear definition, your essay could well be deemed as a mischievous political statement, and in the eyes of many it is an open invitation of harsh criticism. And you will probably feel frustrated since there isn't much that you can use to effectively defend youself without being labelled as "politically incorrect".

Angus


[Edited at 2006-06-29 08:48]


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Ritu Bhanot  Identity Verified
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Thought it was only about British Muslim Authors Jun 29, 2006

Well, looks like that's not the case... then don't forget Tasleema Nasreen from Bangladesh.

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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
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One cultural point of view exists only in the others' point of view Jun 29, 2006

Hi Veronika,

I would hate to discourage you with nitpicking (or more of it), but I do share the concerns voiced previously, plus I think the main issue lies in this statement below:

I would like to use the term "Muslims" since it includes not only the religious point of view but also the cultural one.


The whole point is that the cultural points of view are too disparate over communities adhering to the same religion, Islam in this example, that it is impossible to talk about a "Muslim cultural point of view". Just to give you one example from among many: there are two Turkish-speaking Muslim communities in the United Kingdom, one from Cyprus, the other from Turkey (I'm not sure, but I think the former is a larger group). You will find that they have quite different cultural attitudes, despite speaking the same language, and even that their cultures might well be mutually unintelligible at times. Also, Islam is not a uniform, homogenous belief system itself - no belief system is, and in no geography it has spread, has it been the only cultural component or influence. So, not only will you find totally incompatible cultural attitudes, say, between a Lebanese and a Turk (both from what you call the Near East), but among Turkey Turks with different social backgrounds, as well. So, you will inevitably begin to make comparisons and to highlight differences between Muslim authors with different cultural backgrounds, and this might be a complete distraction from your original aim. Therefore, perhaps it would be more realistic to identify one immigrant Muslim community that seems to be representative of Muslim culture for the native host community and take your comparative study from there. Such a community would probably be the Turks in Germany, it might be Pakistanis in the UK. I don't know. All I know is that the "uniformity" of the Muslim cultural point of view exists nowhere but in the point of view of the uninitiated "outsider."

Best of luck with your research.

Özden

[Edited at 2006-06-29 15:46]


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Ouadoud  Identity Verified
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there are so many approaches Jun 29, 2006

Hi Veronika,

The researcher may belong to a school of thought, be convinced of certain principles... and then try to find confirmation or defamation in reality and facts, using various methods...

Or can start from reality, trying to have as less fore-ideas as possible, then present the sum of his field studies/suverys/screenings ecc.

In any case, Sherene H. Razack for example who spent some time studying Muslim communities in Europe, has (in my opinion) a healthy approach and methodology.

I thought it may interest you, although it doesn't deal directly with Britain and focuses only on one main topic.

-----------------------------------
Imperilled Muslim Women, Dangerous Muslim Men and Civilised Europeans: Legal and Social Responses to Forced Marriages
Sherene H. Razack

(1) Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto


Abstract:
How is it possible to acknowledge and confront patriarchal violence within Muslim migrant communities without descending into cultural deficit explanations (they are overly patriarchal and inherently uncivilised) and without inviting extraordinary measures of stigmatisation, surveillance and control so increased after the events of September 11, 2001? In this paper, I explore this question by examining Norway's responses to the issue of forced marriages. I argue that social and political responses to violence against women in Muslim communities have been primarily culturalist. That is, the violence is understood as originating entirely in culture, an approach that obscures the multiple factors that give rise to and sustain the violence. The culturalist approach enables the stigmatising and surveillance of Muslim communities. I approach this argument in two parts. In part one I discuss two important and influential books written by women who identify their concerns as feminist and who lay out the case for considering the problem of forced marriage as a problem of controlling fundamentally unassimilable and culturally inferior Muslims. I explore these works as paradigmatic of the culturalising or culturalist move. In part two, I review a variety of legal initiatives in Norway, first contextualising them as part of a larger European venture to control Muslim populations and then examining what they share conceptually with the approaches in part one. I end with how we might begin to develop an anti-racist response to the problem of violence against women.
anti-Muslim - culturalisation - forced marriage laws - violence

from: http://www.springerlink.com/(55cdnv45iydj2u45iqcryp55)/app/home/contribution.asp?referrer=parent&backto=issue,1,8;journal,6,30;linkingpublicationresults,1:104213,1

Salaam,

Ouadoud


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Balasubramaniam L.  Identity Verified
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Muslim writers in English only? Jun 29, 2006

Ritu Bhanot wrote:

Well, looks like that's not the case... then don't forget Tasleema Nasreen from Bangladesh.


But doesn't Tasleema write in Bengali?

If you include other languages, then the scope of the project widens indefinitely.

I would then include Basheer, a Malayalam writer, who has an interesting and quite humourous point of view on many things connected with everyday life.


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Veronika Hansova  Identity Verified
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Good idea - thank you! Jun 30, 2006

[quote]Özden Arıkan wrote:

Therefore, perhaps it would be more realistic to identify one immigrant Muslim community that seems to be representative of Muslim culture for the native host community and take your comparative study from there.

Would you then help me in finding a survey of Muslim communities living in the GB? I would go through it and define the ONE...


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Vito Smolej
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"we are not amused" Jun 30, 2006

could be the reaction of the writers involved - well, I am not, so I am halfway amused by this reduction of the multidimensional richness of the writer's guild to the onedimensionality of "white" British fiction authors vs Muslim fiction authors

Why not male vs female, Tory vs labour voters, right-handed vs left-handed? "Because it does not make a difference"? What makes the difference? The communities? Our a priori (opinionated) opinion about them? The point of views of some selected X and Ys who probably see the world split along other tectonic lines anyhow?

Salman Rushie's "East and west" comes by in my mind, rereading this...

If this comes over as a rant, I appologize. It should be understood as a hint at caution.


regards

Vito

PS: re Muslim communities in UK, you would love (possibly hate, but in any case get a whale of exposure) Birmingham. A week, two weeks? Take your time.

[Edited at 2006-06-30 13:41]


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