Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, by Claire Chambers

By Claire Chambers

What did Britain seem like to the Muslims who visited and lived within the kingdom in expanding numbers from the overdue eighteenth century onwards? This ebook is a literary heritage of representations of Muslims in Britain from the overdue eighteenth century to the eve of Salman Rushdie's booklet of The Satanic Verses (1988).

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Contrary to much contemporary framing of Muslims as austere and abstemious, this is a very diverse group. In ghazal poetry, for example, desire for wine and women has long stood in for the yearning for oneness with God. It is unsurprising, then, that like I’tesamuddin Abu Taleb apostrophizes the beauty of English women. He even writes what appears to be a ghazal (though Charles Stewart renders its title as ‘Ode to London’ and the refrain patterning of the ghazal is lost in translation), which is inspired by the Persian poet Hafez: Henceforward we will devote our lives to London, and its heartalluring Damsels: Our hearts are satiated with viewing fields, gardens, rivers, and palaces.

Abu Taleb soon succumbs to European temptations and gets drunk with his new friends in Ireland. He is filled with regret afterwards (‘I was so much intoxicated that I could scarcely walk’; Vol. 1: 167), and sees alcoholism as a ‘national defect’ of the Irish (Vol. 1: 166). Even so, he seems to approve of drinking in moderation because the adjective he most 38 Britain Through Muslim Eyes commonly couples with ‘wine’ is ‘excellent’. Contrary to much contemporary framing of Muslims as austere and abstemious, this is a very diverse group.

That they had already been serving in the armed forces, stirring up controversy in Parliament, or […] helping to change the way that national identity is conceptualized, often goes unacknowledged. (Sandhu, 2003: xviii) Members of the New Right, politicians from a broad range of the political spectrum, and many mainstream newspapers consistently erase the contributions of Muslims, Asians, blacks, and other ‘others’ from British history, portraying migrants in Britain as constituting an unwelcome post-war invasion.

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