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  • ‘We have the right to burn books’

    by Sunny
    31st July, 2006 at 2:05 pm    

    The production company adapting Monica Ali’s book Brick Lane for film has decided to avoid filming scenes on location due to threats of violence and blockades.

    Yesterday around a hundred protestors peacefully marched through the street to register their anger at the film. They held placards with slogans such as “Monica’s book is full of lies”. When a young Asian man, who declined to give his name, asked the protestors if they had actually read the book, they grew angry and a scuffle was averted by one of the organisers.

    The protest was much smaller and different to promises made by Mr Abdus Salique last week. He told the Guardian newspaper last week: “[If] she has the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to burn books. We will do it to show our anger. We don’t like Monica Ali.” [Asians in Media]

    What’s also interesting is that a verbal scuffle has broken out between Salman Rushdie and Germaine Greer.

    I didn’t like Greer’s article at all. Firstly, who is she to assume that Monica Ali wrote the book because she hates Sylhetis? Are Asian people not allowed to write about non-Asians now? If I write a book about a white character who does something wrong, will I have Germaine Greer telling me it’s just because I hate whites? The second point is about authenticity. I quote Gautam Malkani:

    On one level a novelist should not have to represent anything other than the characters in the novel. It seems to me that if you’re an ethnic novelist from a small community, there would be extra criteria on you to be authentic and representative in a way that other white novelists don’t have. It’s just stupid.

    Now please shut up Ms Greer.

    Update: Also see Johann Hari article [tip AsifB], and I’ve written something for comment is free.

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    1. Serious Golmal » Burn Brick Lane Burn

      [...] As usual, the best discussion on this is to be found on Pickled Politics. [...]

    1. Leon — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:12 pm  

      I must admit my mild interest in this story (despite working about ten minutes walk from Brick Lane and knowing the area well) has been reduced to a sizable ‘Meh’…GG (not Galloway the other GG, Greer) seems to be going senile a little early.

    2. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:25 pm  

      good post sunny! what a bunch of silly people - okay so they don’t like her, big bloody deal - surely they’re representing their ‘community’ in a negative light by doing what they are than something Monica wrote about. Goodness.

      And all this because of the Sylheti feeling of ‘oh you other Bangladeshi/bengali types don’t like us’. Yah whatever. I read the book and didn’t even register any negative stereotypes, if there were any about.

      but really - is the point that they don’t like the fact that some women may be having affairs in their ‘community’ and they can’t deal with that? I think it comes down to some people trying to ‘control’ and monopolize what a ‘community’ should be = and then how it is ‘represented’. If this were about some article in Tower Hamlet’s official publication on ‘Communities in Tower Hamlets’ and someone said sth and the people didn’t like it - it might be understandable. Making such a fuss about fiction - well you can see they’re feeling pretty threatened!

      will have to read greer’s article but from what you say - it does sound rather annoying

    3. Arif — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:25 pm  

      I couldn’t find where Germaine Greer argued that Monica Ali hates Sylhetis, just that some Sylhetis felt that she was misrepresenting them.

      Nor is she saying that ethnic writers have any greater responsibility to represent their communities - she says that misrepresentation is the norm for any writing.

      She says that the thing to do is just to write your own stuff and take the slings and arrows that come your way in return.

      Is Sunny misrepresenting Greer, or am I misrepresenting her, or are we to accuse her of misrepresenting herself?

    4. Sunny — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:28 pm  

      She says that the thing to do is just to write your own stuff and take the slings and arrows that come your way in return.

      Err no Arif. Read the point about Ali not being a proper Bengali and hence has clearly has it in for Sylhetis. I know other Sylhetis who want the film to go ahead… so neither the protestors nor Greer represent all opinion.

    5. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:29 pm  

      A media manufactured storm in a teacup.

      Marginal men get pumped with hot air by media attention. Media attention escalates. Media stamp their feet. So do old men. Continue ad nauseum. Much gnashing of teeth. Bengalis shrug and get on with their life. Important issues get marginalised. Asians are stigmatised again.

      Same old story.

    6. StrangelyPsychedelique / Kesara — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:30 pm  

      I photographed part of the protest, didnt get to see if they burnt anything but I dont htink the police were going to have it.

      The numbers gathered were hardly significant, I arrived just as the march had concluded and there were only abt 30-40 folks there.

    7. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:31 pm  

      Heh heh - yep Greer’s article is very irritating. What’s this whole business about authenticity anyway? i mean do we get english people up in arms cos someone was like oh but most of us are honest, we don’t want anyone to think we’re all like Fagin or sth.

      Greer delves into Monica’s background in her article - and seems to suggest that if you’re experience isn’t what ‘s in your book - then it ain’t valid. well she didn’t set out to write an autobiography did she?

      she’s also saying that Brick Lane people didn’t recognize ‘themselves’ - well why should they? ( ** or maybe the real problem is that some pppl did and didn’t like it much!) this is really starting to sound of copyright issue type debates..

    8. Leon — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:33 pm  

      A media manufactured storm in a teacup.

      Well said, hence my ‘Meh’.

    9. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:33 pm  

      “And Bangladeshi Britons would be better off not reading - or, when it comes out, seeing the film of - Brick Lane”

      this is what Greer ends with - ridiculous. who the hell is she to say what ‘bangladeshi britons’ would be better off doing or not doing - or in any case assuming Bangladeshi Britons all think the same thing? Isn’t she doing what she’s accusing monica of.


    10. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:42 pm  

      I actually think that Germaine Greer makes some interesting points in her article, although I simultaneously disagree with it.

      However, this is nothing more than a media created storm in a teacup. Thirty to forty old men in white vests from a ladoo shop protesting? I know Bengalis and this is not an issue for them at all. It does present a chance for loudmouth egomaniacs like Rushdie and Greer to add their two cents worth though. As amusing as it is to watch them mud wrestling, the whole thing is an irrelevant storm in a teacup, marginal to the important issues.

      It is also good to fill up the newspaper columns with commentators decrying the fall of western civilisation at the hands of the brown hordes again. Tick another box.

      And Brick Lane is an tepid novel to give such publicity to. People will read it now after the controversy hoping to find raw sex and blasphemy and transgression, only to find a boring tale like Joanna Trollope in Tower Hamlets.

    11. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:46 pm  

      “She writes in English and her point of view is, whether she allows herself to impersonate a village Bangladeshi woman or not, British”

      ‘impersonate’ - ? it all sounds about authenticity - and then ‘authority’

      “The fact that Ali’s father is Bangladeshi was enough to give her authority in the eyes of the non-Asian British, but not in the eyes of British Bangladeshis.”

      oh please. hardly an academic text. and then this -
      ” As British people know little and care less about the Bangladeshi people in their midst, their first appearance as characters in an English novel had the force of a defining caricature”

      see it all comes back to this business of representing individuals in one ‘block’. anyhow its all very silly, its hardly as if books haven’t been written featuring bangladeshis as ‘characters’ in an English novel. maybe this book was too much of a bestseller so that’s why everyone’s jumping up and down. its not as if Monica reached out and said you mr. x you are now a character in my book - Y. Golly gosh. i don’t like the tone of Germaines’ article - definitely not.

      “Bengali Muslims smart under an Islamic prejudice that they are irreligious and disorderly, the impure among the pure, and here was a proto-Bengali writer with a Muslim name, portraying them as all of that and more. For people who don’t have much else, self-esteem is crucial.”

      erm - what’s all this implying? your self-esteem depends on what some author wrote about some woman having an affair?

    12. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:50 pm  

      what G says - “There is only one remedy available if your reality is being recycled through a writer or a movie-maker, and that is to write your own novel or make your own film - and accept ostracism as your just desert.” what funny terminology she’s using - reality being recycled - hello! what on earth is that supposed to mean?

    13. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:55 pm  

      anyway so much for Greer looking past the ‘community’ and ‘race’ issues into actually what the story is about - a woman’s story. a tale about a woman who’s scared and makes mistakes and then tries to empower herself at the end. yes very ordinary tale - could have been any woman in any old council estate really. id say it was much more about feminist issues than a ‘community’ but perhaps again that’s why the @community Elders didn’t like it. why it might put some ideas into our girls’ heads. pah.

    14. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:56 pm  

      and i’d like to know just who was protesting. a bunch of fuddy duddy old men?

      right i think ive posted enough now!

    15. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 2:59 pm  

      I dont agree with Germaine Greer’s article, but that last quotation by Sonia which has confused her is one thing Greer says that I find interesting.

      Recycling reality is what fiction can do. And she is basically saying to those who regret or complain about the way that their reality is represented to do something about it by writing novels or making a movie. Rather than futilely protesting your sense of injustice at the piece you feel misrepresents you.

      But be prepared to take the slings and arrows of criticism that come your way that is an inevitable part of the artistic process.

    16. Arif — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:02 pm  

      Are these the parts you object to, Sunny:

      “The fact that Ali’s father is Bangladeshi was enough to give her authority in the eyes of the non-Asian British, but not in the eyes of British Bangladeshis.”


      “English readers were charmed by her Bengali characters, but some of the Sylhetis of Brick Lane did not recognise themselves.”

      I couldn’t find the passage where she claims that Monica Ali has it in for Sylhetis, although she goes in to some detail describing Monica’s background to explain why she might not seem to know well the particular culture of the real Brick Lane.

      But she says any misrepresentation of Brick Lane is to be expected. The hurt it causes is also to be expected. And people who want to remedy this should write their own novels and films and suffer the consequences for it.

      Sonia, on the issue of what people should read, she doesn’t ban anyone, just says that people would be better off if they don’t watch films that are from an outsiders’ point of view looking at them. She sees this in the same vein as people from the East End watching Coronation Street instead of Eastenders and farmers not getting their knowledge of rural issues from the Archers.

      Sure, Eastenders might watch “Eastenders” for artistic value or entertainment without being put off by the misrepresentations and she doesn’t consider that. But she is making a point about the pain of misrepresentation and how to deal with it peacefully by a mixture of avoidance and counter-speech. Precisely waht I thought free-speech advocates on pickled politics have suggested in previous controversies.

    17. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:07 pm  

      sure arif - but still - saying misrepresentation is to be expected is all well and good but still implies that it is ‘representation’ in the first place. I just don’t agree with her underlying attitudes towards writing in the first place = that’s what annoys me. this business about not being ‘typical’ - well which writers ever were? do people want to read about typical people? its like a man saying to GG what you say isn’t ‘typical’ and you’re not a ‘typical’ woman so im not listening to you. sure that’s to be expected, but still annoying!

    18. Sunny — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:08 pm  

      But she is making a point about the pain of misrepresentation and how to deal with it peacefully by a mixture of avoidance and counter-speech

      Arif, again very idealistic but no grounding in reality.

      What exactly was the mis-representation? Can anyone tell how this is defined in this context? Secondly, the only people threatening violence were the protestors. Maybe they should consider thinking more carefully before speaking? Monica Ali hasn’t said anything in the way of “counter-speech” to make this worse.

    19. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:10 pm  

      talking about the ‘pain of misrepresentation’ in any case is valid but she doesn’t really deal with - she seems to be pinning the blame on the misrepresenter instead of looking at the underlying social dyamics and the questions surrounding why peopel a) perceive themselves to be representable in a work of fiction or b) how perhaps the problem lies in thinking one can represent a group as a uniform block x or y which can be represented as such, instead of a collection of individuals with different stories. talking about documentaries, political representation is one matter, telling the story of a few people who may come from another community is another. I don’t see Greer acknowledging any of this and i think that’s a big problem.

    20. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:17 pm  

      anyway the real thing is this : given this kind of hoo-ha what young asian girl from brick lane or anywhere else is going to want to write a book? Not many that’s for sure.
      ‘oh you’re not typical’ ‘oh how dare you represent your rightfully respecatable uncles and aunties in such a shameful way’. No room for artistic licence or expression of any sort because it’s going to get in the way of the Community’s image of itself. if that isn’t something to be worrried about = then what is?

      Perhaps im annoyed because its this sort of community control that so irritates me.

      And given we’ve talked - seriously- about the problem of the patriarchal nature of the ‘Community’ and how on earth to empower young girls in the forced marriage and honour killing context - what does this all say?

    21. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:27 pm  

      it comes back to the fact that had Monica been someone slap bang in the midst of Brick Lane and known to all and sundry as a member of the ‘Community’ they wouldn’t be able to say what they’re saying. But it wouldn’t matter - because there would be plenty of socially pressure-y ways of ensuring that in that instance she wouldn’t find it very easy to write what she wants. Such as social ostracization.

      there was a post up on Sepia Mutiny - barmaid i think was the author - one of the few sensible posts on that site - and it was well written - about an ‘anonymous auntie’ and her dangers. Ah yes - ‘An ode to my {least}Favourite Auntie’ ( there was one to my favourite auntie) :-)

      i think we can all recognize what’s being described. ooh but imagine if someone wanted to write about that openly - the outraged aunties on the street demonstrating this time.

    22. Nav — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:32 pm  

      Everyone who keeps saying that this is a media manufactured controversy would do well to remember that there were threats of violence made against the production, and that those making the threats got their way. Unlike most of you I’m not English, but from this side of the pond it seems that you’ve had far too many incidents like this in recent memory (Jerry Springer The Opera and Bhetzi come to mind). Ignoring this issue because you don’t think it matters strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do.

    23. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:43 pm  

      sonia, the question of writing about the experinences of Brick Lane as a Bangladeshi woman are as much about access to publishing as they are about the repressiveness of ‘community’

      Rabina Khan is a Bengali writer from East London. You can read about her here:

      She became so exasperated by the difficulty of finding a publisher for her novel about a Bangladeshi woman in East London that she actually did something amazingly positive and brave:

      This is exactly the kind of feisty, entrepeneurial and intelligent woman you might imagine should be given a platform - born in East London, Sylheti Bangladeshi, writing novels about the lives of East End Bengalis. So to say that these voices do not exist, or that the voice of Bengali women can only be articulated via the largesse of mainstream publishers, is wrong. Rabina Khan is living proof of that. Why is she ignored then? Maybe, because she defies stereotypes, and has not studied at Oxford Cambridge and so is not au fait with the London publishing scene. Maybe it is because she wears a hijab, as you can see in her picture and is thus not thought to be marketable to a mass audience (even though she is stunningly beautiful, sadly, the fact that she wears hijab may well be a factor in publishers or potential readers from investing in her book)

      All of these are factors that also conspire to hold back talented Asian women like Rabina Khan. It’s not that they don’t exist, or the broader points you make are not valid to varying degrees. It’s just that mainstream society is often too lazy, or patronising, or ignorant, to look for the alternative voices that are not served up on a platter by Transworld Publishing with a marketing budget of tens of thousands of pounds.

      I would love to read an article by Rabina Khan on the furore.

    24. j0nz — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:45 pm  

      “Where one burns books, one will soon burn people.” -Heinrich Heine In Berlin, on May 10, 1933

    25. Arif — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:48 pm  

      Sunny, the misrepresentation people feel is for them to express - Germaine Greer sees no need to do this for them. She just points out that Brick Lane is a real place, not a fictional creation, so people from Brick Lane might be forgiven for taking this as representing something about the Brick Lane they know. If they think it fails, then Monica can either say (implausibly) that she was not setting her book in the Brick Lane we know about or could say she stands by her representation of it. I think she stands by her representation - she seems to have done research for her book and she wanted to set the film there as well.

      People who feel misrepresented may be the ones doing much more misrepresentation themselves. And Germaine Greer is alluding to that in her article, by challenging them to put their heads above the parapet.

      By putting her own thoughts down in writing - Ms Greer is in turn being misrepresented by me, Sunny and/or sonia on PP.

      Sonia - isn’t your irritation with what you see as her defence of community control against artistic license a form of “how dare you misrepresent the feminist cause in such a shameful way”, expecting her to read the book through the lens of challenging patriarchy and the representation of a woman’s struggle against it.

      Germaine isn’t trying to take away anyone’s room for expression and artistic license - she is trying to enlarge it by telling people who don’t like how they are represented to create their own artistic expressions. She does not see misrepresentation as peculiar to gender, culture or social group, she makes a general point which I think we can all empathise with: When people write about us, we can feel a shock of non-recognisiton and betrayal.

      How do you want people to deal with such feelings? Shut up and hide away, or give us their own representations? I think Germaine Greer’s answer oppresses no-one.

    26. Sunny — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:50 pm  

      There’s also Rekha Waheed, who I believes works with Rabina:

      And there’s Kia Abdullah

      Read the blog entry, explains the sort of problems writers go through.

    27. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:51 pm  

      Here is another article pertinent to this issue about Rabina Khan and other Bangladeshi women from East London who were fed up of having the door slammed in their face by mainstream publishers when they were writing on themes and issues surrounding life for Bengali Muslim women in East London.

      Worth reading in full.

      So it’s not just a case of Bengali women being suppressed, it’s a case of mainstream publishers and journalists not caring or giving a damn or only paying lip service to the issues facing Bengali women from the East End. Sonia says that the dominant factors are the patriarchal system that stops them from writing. But this is not the case. There are East London bengali women writing, but because they wear hijabs or have not worked in publishing like Monica Ali has, with the requisite contacts and Oxbridge confidences, they find it difficult to find a home for their work with publishers who are superficial and tokenistic in their approach.

      I’m sorry, but if mainstream media wants to represent themselves as liberating or giving a voice to Bengali women, they should make the effort to seek out the articulate and talented Bengali writers from the East End that exist but they are too lazy or condescending to even look for. I would rather Rabina Khan writes an article in the Guardian about this issue than a middle class white man who has a sudden found enthusiasm for the liberation of Bengali women.

    28. AsifB — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:52 pm  

      The Greer-Rushdie debate is all very well, (and both of them of have a genuine track record of sympathetic interest in Bangladeshi issues going back to the 70s) but let us not forget that the real damage here has already been done by the film company pulling out of Brick Lane.

      Not the ‘community’. Not the protestors. Maybe the Guardian for blowing things up in the Silly Season. But mainly, its down to the film company for choosing to believe one small grouping of locals over everybody else - and not so far as I can see, making any real effort to go on the PR offensive and bring on board sympathetic Bangladeshis..

      Since Thursday, I have read half a dozen national
      op-ed pieces making no distinction between Syhletis and other Bengalis, but making very close word assocations in readers’ minds between “Brick Lane,” “Bangaldeshi and/or Muslim” and “book burning.”

      Even though some of these pieces and the original Guardian articles make clear that the protestors were unrepresentative, self appointed and more full of hot air than anything seriously threatening, (Johann Hari’s piece in today’s Independent has some choice quotes -the overall impression conveyed is that the “community” is to blame and instead of focusing criticism on the film company’s pathetic withdrawal, the event is used as a stick and soapbox for writers to proclaim superiority over ‘these illiberal brown people.’

      What about the film company’s willingness to so easily believe this stereotype then? Given that they have been working with locals for many months and the area is full of film crews round the year, I can’t believe they ever felt seriously threatened. Of all the places in London where a film crew may feel uncomfortable , E1 ain’t top of the list (25 years ago maybe during skinhead invasion Sundays but not for a while now…)

      The press and the film company deserve a lot of letters from this forum’s readers pointing out how easy it was for a “straw man” to be built up within a few days for no positive purpose whatsoever - and that the damage could have been averted had the film company genuinely chosen to engage with locals - instead of so easily being scared off.

    29. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 3:57 pm  

      Ignoring this issue because you don’t think it matters strikes me as exactly the wrong thing to do

      Ignoring the rabble rousers in the first instance is precisely the thing to do. The media seems to be in thrall to these kinds of men. Who are always unrepresentative but breed off the attention they are given.

    30. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:03 pm  

      queen bee - you’re right about access to publishing. that’s pretty damn difficult for anyone these days - that’s why i think the internet and self-publishing is so amazing.

    31. AsifB — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

      Queen Bee - Just want to say you make some good points and links about other Bengali women writers being overlooked.

      Do you really think being hijabless and having Oxbridge connections inncoulates a minority person from prejudice in this society?

    32. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:19 pm  


      I think you make some excellent points in your post.

      Your question is very broad and I wouldnt want to prejudice Monica Ali or in any way make it seem as if I was being critical of her because she conforms to the publishing world’s median - Oxford educated, having worked in publishing herself for years, and without outward symbols of her religion. Congratulations to her for her success I do not begrudge it.

      What I will say is this. Bangladeshis have been treated unfairly over this. More so, Bangladeshi women have been treated unfairly. All the points you make in your post about how the film company shouldnt have buckled are good and absolutely correct. But when I read the comments of middle class white people who probably don’t know very much about East London Bengali women, start locking horns with fat flatulent pompous unrepresentative inarticulate men, I start thinking, what is at stake here?

      Articles in the Guardian by middle class white men declaring that they are striking a blow for the freedom of Bengali women? And warning that this will have a detrimental effect on the artistic liberation of Bengali women? Who before Transworld Publishing and Monica Ali came along were a nocturnal beast that hid under stones and leaves unable to ask for help or were too shy to come out and write about their lives?


      There are Bengali women born and raised in Tower Hamlets who have been knocking on the door of the publishing establishment for years trying to get their foot in the door, and even when an issue comes up directly affecting them, in which they have something real at stake, and in which they can ariculate a female Brick Lane Bengali perspective, even then they are ignored!

      My own opinion is that Rabina Khan, stunningly beautiful and glamorous as she is, probably would have great difficulty being marketed by mainstream publishers because she wears a hijab and is actually streetwise and from the area. I know how publishing works and their mindset.

      What I am dissapointed in is the media ignorance of the existence of female Bengali voices from the East End. It is almost as if that if they give space to them, they lose their position as arbiter of all that is relevant and true to this story.

      In a strange way, it makes me think that middle class white men and women are as allergic to the articulate and uncensored voice of Bangladeshi Muslim women from the East End of London, as some of these ridiculous puffed up sweet shop owners are.

    33. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:24 pm  

      Somehow I doubt that Mr Abdus Salique keen support of the right to burn books would countinue in the face of setting light to a copy of the Q’uran.


    34. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:27 pm  

      Hmm, so living literally 5 mins walk away [in Bethnal Green] from Brick Lane I can’t say that I’ve seen many Bengalis (Sylhetis, Dhakayas or others) get into that big a fuss.

      I don’t see where Greer says that Ali wrote the book because she hates Sylhetis. Many like myself really dislike the book for the writing, style etc, but we don’t have a problem with Brick Lane, sylhetis/Bangladeshis and made up stereotypes/generalisations being used in fiction. I can understand why some people are a bit annoyed though, because it’s been on tv shows and marketed as ‘authentic’. I’ve no problem with it being unauthentic, just don’t turn around and market is as being one — however, that’s just my perception of how it was marketed and spoken about in the media. It may not be accurate, so I’ll happily reconsider this point.

      But, by using the title Brick Lane, the implication of it being about authentic Bangladeshi culture and “way of life” (if that’s appropriate) is there as a marketing tool, because it’s a well know Bangladeshi community which may entice people into reading the book. The only one. Doesn’t mean she couldn’t use her native Bolton or any other place for that matter. However, again, this is implication and my perception. Book burning and whatnot is pathetic, but I think Ali just needs to clear this thing up and say ‘this was fiction. It’s based in Brick Lane, but it’s not an authentic account of anything that goes on there. The end’ before a Rushdie-esque protest happens.

    35. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:30 pm  

      Queen Bee - if you’re a white middle class male - i.e. a large majority - it still isn’t easy to get a publishing contract. in fact, ( and we’ve heard it before) in many ways publishers are more interested in fetishizing asian writers - of course this doesn’t even any old asian write r can get a book deal. but still - its downright almost impossible for anyone to get a book deal these days. i know about the publishing industry too! :-)

      {Internet publishing is the way to go and let’s forget the traditional print industry.}

      and anyway i know zilch about east london bengali women - does that mean everything i’ve said above is invalid? i think not - to me it wouldn’t make a difference if the community in question were Martians in West London - the principle of community control about representation and image - still hold.

      it goes back to the oh you can’t possibly empathize with such and such if you’re not of the same demographic. phooey. more boxing in with labels.

    36. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:31 pm  

      “given this kind of hoo-ha what young asian girl from brick lane or anywhere else is going to want to write a book?”

      Sonia, don’t patronise us.

    37. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:32 pm  

      33 - TFI good point

      ha ha

    38. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:33 pm  

      i wasnt patronizing you or anyone forzana - its quite simple - dealing with the reality on the ground. im young and asian and female - i want to write. this sort of thing doesn’t encourage me.

    39. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:34 pm  

      or perhaps you misunderstood me ( boy everyone is so touchy) i meant who would want to publish under their real name given this kind of muckracking? Pseudonyms here i come

    40. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:37 pm  

      That patronises writers everywhere! The point of writing, in this country especially, is that you’re able to write and say what you like even if it means facing people burning your book & turning your film crew away & having the likes of Greer and Rushdie battling it out about you.

      If writers aren’t prepared to overcome that, then that’s their problem, it’s got nothing to do with whether they may face resistance or whether one may feel discouraged about writing. If anything, people who want to write seriously are somewhat intellectual and would know that for the majority of their time as a writer, the publishers’ doors slamming in your face is more discouraging.

    41. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:39 pm  


      You make an interesting point about what is or is not marketed as ‘authentic’. Sarfraz Manzoor wrote an excellent article on this very subject.,,1764421,00.html?84%3A+Book+news

      It seems to me that some of the discussion in response to the ‘protestors’ is a little disingenuous. It is enough to say to them that your protest is ridiculous, and it is wrong to seek to stop filming in that locality. But when you start saying to them, ‘look old chaps, it’s just a book’, you are wasting your time and arguing futilely.

      Partly because even if they dont accept your perspective it is not a good reason to disrupt filming because of freedom of speech. But also because mainstream publishers DO market novels by Asian writers as representing something ‘authentic’ as sociology for white readers to get their teeth into, a ‘glimpse’ into an ‘unknown world’. They need to drop this line - it is a conceit. Asian writers should not be marketed as tourist guides or voyeuristic producers of scenery in the first place.

    42. Sunny — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:39 pm  

      Sonia we’ll out you don’t worry ;)
      It’ll be PP’s way into the limelight!

      The point about who they represent is important, as Queen Bee makes. But this sort of discrimination isn’t just against Bengalis - it is against all Britons. All writers are usually middle class. It is a profession that requires a lot of investment without much money in return. Rather like journalism.

      I’m with AsifB on this one - the film company should not have pulled out so quickly. Makes all look like fanatics.

    43. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:41 pm  

      sonia, I think you missed my points completely.

    44. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:44 pm  


      There are a plethora of Bengali women writers out there. It’s just a matter of looking for them. I think you’re arguing a straw man here, nobody is saying that the ‘protests’ are anything other than ridiculous and misconceived.

    45. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:53 pm  

      She didn’t miss mine.


    46. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 4:57 pm  

      Read that article from back when “Londonstani” was being debated. Why has this turned into a women vs. men thing as well? It seems like the media are doing that rather than the Bengalis at Brick Lane. They would still have protested had it been a man who wrote it.

      Sonia, sorry if it seems like I’m being touchy. I just find it amusing that you’re pigeon holeing i) asians, ii) females [?!] iii) writers because you think people should not need to justify & express themselves when ‘muckwracking’ happens, but should express themselves by writing such a book in the first place. To me that just seems a bit backwards, like young asian girls have the intelligence to write a decent book but not to speak out when groups of men campaign against their book.

    47. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:05 pm  

      As far as I know burning books as a form of peaceful protest and is covered by Freedom of Expression. It is highly ironic that he is using it to protest against someone elses Freedom of Speech.

      Also bet he wasn’t that keen when some artists used those same rights to draw cartoons.

      Hypocrisy is something that is easy to see and complain about in others, much harder to see in oneself.


    48. Sunny — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:16 pm  

      Forzana - I do believe there is an element of sexism involved in all this. Most protests against censorship have been against women - Gurpreet Bhatti, Yasmin Whittaker Khan, Monica Ali. In each case the claim has been made that “these things don’t happen in our community” (see Johann Hari’s article above) and in each case they want to pretend that life is great.

      But there are real issues being swept underneath the carpet. I was recently at an event where a theatre producer was making something with some young Benagli girls from Tower Hamlets. By themselves the girls came up with the idea of doing something on girls getting pregnant and then quietly going through an abortion (or being shipped off to Bangladesh to do so).

      When asked if they wanted to take the theatre to the public in Tower Hamlets to bring the issue to light, they declined. No one wants to talk about these issues, as they didn’t with what Gurpreet Bhatti was saying.

    49. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:29 pm  

      I know there’s sexism involved, but I wasn’t too sure where it came in with regards to Ali & her book.

      I’m not sure whether you’re insinuating that perhaps the parents got involved & prevented them from doing that or not, but I’d be pretty embarassed myself & wouldn’t wihs to to do that at the theatre if my parents knew. Either way, I understand that no one wants to talk about these issues, but as young asian and/or muslim girls/women, we’ve learnt to deal our father’s generation & their disapproval and lack of communication about most things, let alone subjects like sex, abortion etc.
      That’s why if anything, any changes that do occur will not happen through the media [whilst it's good they're trying to get it in the public forum, it won't do much] and the likes of Hari, but by us & our generation. It’s also an element of ‘they’re getting old now’ first born immigrant bengalis/asians won’t have this problem at such a level when they’re gone [as callous as that sounds]. It’s unlikely therefore, that a debate or change will happen.

    50. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:29 pm  

      * sexism involved with regards to censorship

    51. Chris Stiles — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:33 pm  

      Having now read the Greer article, I don’t care much for it either. However, just to turn things around a little:

      “As British people know little and care less about the Bangladeshi people in their midst, their first appearance as characters in an English novel had the force of a defining caricature.”

      Aren’t there resonances here between this argument and the argument made by Sunny whenever the MCB, or some other group of ‘community leaders’ start jumping around and claiming for *ALL* muslims/Pakistanis/Sikhs/Hindus etc?

      Because - there is some truth in the statement above. In the absence of any other viewpoint, a single book widely read does have a certain indirect defining quality.

      Intentionally or not her book becomes ‘the representation of the Bangledeshi community’.

      Which is not to say that the protestors aren’t the self same set of people who could be caricatured quite accurately in the book itself, nor that their present set of actions don’t further propogate that same set of stereotypes.

    52. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:38 pm  

      hardly forzana, i was just pointing out that community dynamics like that make it harder for everyone - i happened to be pointing out re: the girls in light of the forced marriage discussions. ( perhaps you’re not aware of that) which was all about empowering young girls in communities such as this one we’re talking about.

    53. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:39 pm  

      sunny’s got a good point in no. 48.

    54. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 5:48 pm  

      hmm i’m not sure quite where you get the idea about me - “because you think people should not need to justify & express themselves when ‘muckwracking’ happens, but should express themselves by writing such a book in the first place.” i didn’t say any such things - goes to show what interpretation is!:-) how do you know what i think apart from what i said?

      I wasn’t saying that people should go about ‘expressing’ themselves actually - but that if they should choose to, they shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of nonsense. Yes. That’s my opinion - and my position in all this is from an individualist perspective - perhaps i should point that out. Clearly I differ in that way from a lot of people in this thread.

      and also i’m not sure why you assumed the second part of your statement - “o me that just seems a bit backwards, like young asian girls have the intelligence to write a decent book but not to speak out when groups of men campaign against their book.” i didn’t say that either - but that as you point out yourself, it means to me that whoever wants to say what, has to go through more hassle. And that’s a barrier to expression - yeah it is. I can’t see how expressing concern about that is suggesting anyone’s backward.

      but clearly people are very defensive about their identities, which is what it seems to all boil down to.

    55. Arif — on 31st July, 2006 at 6:24 pm  

      Sonia, I agree with you that people are very defensive about their identities (but I’d add that it also depends on context). And that people should not assume they know what you think beyond what you write/say. And that it makes sense for you to ask why people perceive themselves to be representable in fiction in the first place, and why they think they are being represented in terms of community blocs, not as individuals with differing stories.

      People have different concepts about how society works and how representation works and so forth, so some people will come to a different understanding about fiction, the role of the author, the importance of group identity and the degree to which their identity is under threat. We have to come to terms with that.

      I just don’t think it is going to work to preach to people that they shouldn’t be so sensitive. It would help more if you can help them interpret their angers and find ways to channel it which doesn’t threaten others. I think Germaine Greer is opening space for people like you and Monica Ali to write without having to worry about people feeling you are trying to misrepresent them. Just say you understand that any character can be read as a representation which is partial and unfair and that you support other people’s rights to try to redress this with their own representations, and each side will surely have their own audiences which love and those which hate each kind of art.

      If we give the message “we don’t care how you feel, you are just narrow-minded hypocrites and don’t understand art so the angrier you become the more we will ridicule you” I would expect it to magnify people’s sense of being misrepresented by hostile bigots - and both sides will be reflections of one another, reducing and stigmatising each others’ identities for the sake of protecting what they believe gives them freedom and security.

    56. Forzana — on 31st July, 2006 at 6:30 pm  

      Sorry, I got the wrong end of the stick on the first part & assumed a fair bit there.

    57. Roger — on 31st July, 2006 at 6:33 pm  

      One of the cliches of novels involving muslims in Britain seems to be self-appointed community elders who are vain and foolish hypocrites with no real support. it seems that this is not a cliche but a truism in Brick Lane and Ms Ali actually flattered them. i hope the publishers are bringing out a specially expensive inflammable edition to sell to the book-burners.

    58. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 6:41 pm  

      In a moment of rock ‘n roll dyslexia, I once burned my copy of the Holy Kerrang

      Megadeath gave me a round of applause

      Maybe we can all learn something from this

    59. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st July, 2006 at 6:56 pm  

      “Brick Lane” special edition, now pre-soaked in lighter fluid!

      BTW Monica Ali is fox!


    60. Chairwoman — on 31st July, 2006 at 6:58 pm  

      It’s fiction. One of the features of fiction is that the story is made up. It doesn’t have to mimic life. I read it, it was readable. The characters seemed pretty one dimensional. This was not because of their ethnicity or religion, it was because of the way Miss Ali portrayed them.

      Frankly I consider book burning, unless government sponsered, to be childish and assinine rather than evil, but that’s just me.

      Germaine Greer? She was pretentious and self serving in the sixties, and nothing appears to have changed. If you don’t believe me, actually read The Female Eunoch.

    61. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 7:10 pm  

      Arif -

      “People have different concepts about how society works and how representation works and so forth, so some people will come to a different understanding about fiction, the role of the author, the importance of group identity and the degree to which their identity is under threat. We have to come to terms with that.”

      yep definitely that’s the crux - people clearly have different ideas about this - and that in my mind is really the underlying problem.

    62. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st July, 2006 at 7:19 pm  

      Yes Sonia, you are right to paraphase Wafa Sultan for a moment:

      “They [The West] are not the People of the Book, they are people of many books”

      Part the problem is we have is some people don’t really see the point in having many books, as the sum total of human knowledge and can be found in just one.

      It would be quite funny if people really didn’t think this way.


    63. Nyrone — on 31st July, 2006 at 7:36 pm  

      As usual, all the controversy makes me want to do is simply re-read the book watch the film.
      I bet the producers literally cannot believe their luck at all the free publicity that the movie and book are garnering from this ridiculous illogical melee disguised as a justifiable protest movement.

      Honestly, a mountain out of a molehill is all I have to say about this. It’s a work of fiction people, and if writers are not able express their own view points through their unique prisms of life, then why not ban free speech altogether? Monica Ali’s book is a beautiful work of fiction, that could and should be used as a platform to possibly discuss in a wider debate some of the issues presented in the book about the culture, environment and the area.

      I think the crux of this whole issue is the underlying attempt by knee-jerk reactionary cultural mini-mobs escaping from their caves for 10 minutes to protest and scream erratically about things they don’t understand and who live in their ‘truman-esque’ existence, having no understanding that you CANNOT THREATEN TO HAVE VIOLENT PROTESTS AND ATTACKS PEOPLE YOU DISAGREE WITH. Who on earth gave these people the right to speak for the entire Bangledeshi community? It’s laughable that they would use ‘we have a right to burn books’ as an argument of justification for what is essentially a pretty weak argument in the first place. They lessen their cause with these school-boy threats…

      People have a right to peacefully protest about something they feel strongly about, we live in a country that encourages that, but LOOK AT THESE ALL-MALE, BACKWARDS MOVING BASTIONS OF YESTERDAY protesting here, most of them HAVE NOT READ THE BOOK, and it’s the epitome of collective idiocy, where people who don’t understand the issues give their stupidly biased account to others like them (that never go outdoors) and then the whole bunch of lemons protest on something THEY HAVEN’T EVEN FORMED AN ACCURATE INDIVIDUAL UNDERSTANDING OF.

      My problem is that as a young Asian man myself, I hate to see the cultural ghettoised so-called ‘community’ hold progressive people at ransom for having viewpoints that clash with theirs and firmly steer outside of their long-held traditional iron-grip.

      Someone explain to me why these cavemen come out with their clubs when a fictional book projecting them in a sometimes less-than-glowing light is turned into a film, but stay totally silent like mannequins while our goverment continues to blow children up in Iraq and refuse to listen to a word the people say, as it aligns itself with the far-right in America. Isn’t that a more pressing concern for the future?

    64. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 7:58 pm  

      “all the controversy makes me want to do is simply re-read the book”

      And the massochist of the year award goes to…

    65. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:02 pm  

      anyway :-) burning books is very bad for the environment!

    66. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:03 pm  

      It’s not that bad Kismet Hardy. There are some good scenes in it. But I don’t understand the rhapsodies it inspires in some people. In the link above, Johaan Hari says Brick Lane is “one of the most tender and beautiful British novels I know”

    67. inders — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:15 pm  

      Can someone show me the part of Greer’s article where she states Ms Ali hates Bangladeshi people, I don’t seem to be able to find it. All I see is that she accouses Monica Ali of pandering to external streotypes of the Bangladeshis. Which I don’t feel is quite the same thing.

    68. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:18 pm  

      Johaan Hari obviously thinks Asian girl meets boy/ boy’s family say no/ girl becomes gay/ boy turns into fundamentalist/ three generations later the boy’s granddaughter and girl’s grandson meet during a tsunami in bolton and fall in love… is a great premise for a book.

      It’s cunts like this that are thwarting the progress of good British Asian literature being published

    69. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:25 pm  

      Kismet Hardy

      Well Johaan Haari will be very upset with your analysis. He knows what he is talking about. As he says:

      I have lived among (and loved) British Asian communities all my life – and I can attest to its veracity.

    70. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:31 pm  

      Don’t know the guy, but anyone who makes themselves a spokesperson of an entire community just because he’s lived in them sounds a bit of a ponce to me

    71. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:36 pm  

      It’s a little overcompensating and creepy I think.

    72. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:39 pm  

      I second that emotion. I’m sylheti by birth and ran away to dhaka (the capital of bangladesh) when I was old enough to realise most of them were narrow-minded freaks. A lot of them aren’t, but a lot of them are. So yeah, to come out and say ‘we’re beautiful people’ is a bit james bluntish

    73. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:43 pm  

      I think he was pro war as well. No doubt he wrote an article on why Iraqis should be cluster bombed with an encomium about how he has lived among (and loved) so many Arabs in his life. It gives me the shivers for some reason.

    74. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 8:54 pm  

      Well Kismet Hardy your life sounds interesting. Maybe you should pen a novel, which would be like the Anti Brick Lane. If you say some rude things about feminist Indian women in it, I promise to burn your effigy and threaten to disrupt any film production of it if it is ever made.

    75. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 9:13 pm  


      Gautam Malkani introduced me to his agent, his agent told me it wasn’t a book.

      Bitter? Fuck yeah

    76. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 9:24 pm  

      How can it not be a book? I don’t understand.

    77. Nyrone — on 31st July, 2006 at 9:26 pm  

      so, recommend some good titles for us Kismet.
      I found Brick Lane to be an excellent book.

      Did you really write a novel?
      Give us a synopsis…

    78. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 10:04 pm  

      Yeah guys. I wrote a novel. But apparently the British Asian community isn’t ready for a book about a Sylheti waiter that falls in love with a donkey and, together with a psychotic dwarf and a bisexual rabbi, they go on the road for a feast of bloodlust and violent sodomy

    79. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 10:09 pm  

      I’d buy it.

    80. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 10:21 pm  

      Queen Bee, I hereby propose my hand in marriage. I usually like animals, but in your case, I’ll make an exception and go for an insect. Give me a buzz sometime


    81. Queen Bee — on 31st July, 2006 at 10:39 pm  

      I don’t believe in marriage to artists and writers. Stay the dissolute frustrated and misunderstood novelist, it’s much more attractive.

    82. Kismet Hardy — on 31st July, 2006 at 10:44 pm  

      Aw bless. You called me an artist and a writer

      I’m going to print this page out and show it to all those people who simply settle for calling me a dirty filthy pregnant goat sucker

      You, like, complete me

    83. sonia — on 31st July, 2006 at 11:12 pm  

      77 - :-) kismet great stuff.

      queen bee - thanks for the link to Rabina Khan. Sounds really interesting - and Ocean NDC too.

    84. AsifB — on 1st August, 2006 at 10:23 am  

      Queen Bee no: 32 “In a strange way, it makes me think that middle class white men and women are as allergic to the articulate and uncensored voice of Bangladeshi Muslim women from the East End of London, as some of these ridiculous puffed up sweet shop owners are. ”

      - I totally agree with your conclusion here. The less polite way to put this of course is to say that some “middle class white men and women” have racist stereotypes in their head and/or are racist.
      And that’s why this comment is bought to you by a pseudonym.

      Asif Baul

      ps: Natasha Walter has a fairly thoughtful piece quoting Baroness Uddin and Rabina Khan in today’s Grauniad. Good piece, though (like Johann Hari) she feels it okay to turn it into a battle of the sexes - Bengali women are all victims, the men are the perps - which isn’t quite fair either. (but then I would say that wouldn’t I ? )

    85. sonia — on 1st August, 2006 at 10:46 am  

      i suppose middle class white people isn’t much of a stereotype either :-)

    86. sonia — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:00 am  

      in any case -playing devil’s advocate here ( heh heh) - does this mean we are all allergic to the voices of sharon and mandy from council estate x y or z? cos it ain’t exactly very different - in terms of difficulty of getting their voices heard.

    87. AsifB — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:02 am  

      yes, that’s why I prefaced the phrase with “Some”!

    88. Leon — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:04 am  

      @ Kismets 77 comment: Gimme gimme gimme! I’ll even pay for a small limited run!:D

    89. Kismet Hardy — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:17 am  

      Oh leon. If only your surname was HarperCollins…

    90. Leon — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:40 am  

      Heh heh heh!

      Oh yeah there’s another piece regarding this oh so interesting media concoction:,,1834641,00.html

    91. Queen Bee — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:52 am  

      Reading some of the comments on this topic on some of the CiF thread, I think it is impossible for this kind of occurence and incident to be debated in good faith by many people, who conflate many different issues, and view it as an opportunity to vent their spleen of prejudice against Bangladeshis/Muslims/Asians in general. This is what always happens now in the aftermath of the controversies - a feeding frenzy on the community involved, irrespective of nuance or stance. You (we?) are all guilty as far as many are concerned. What a waste of energy.

    92. Leon — on 1st August, 2006 at 11:56 am  

      On Hari, does anyone else find him a bit of a joke? I can’t keep a straight face when I read the outpouring of his bleeding liberal heart…

    93. Queen Bee — on 1st August, 2006 at 12:18 pm  


      That comment he made:

      I have lived among (and loved) British Asian communities all my life – and I can attest to its veracity.

      Is very creepy and strange to me. I can’t quite put my finger on why it is. But it’s just excessive, unnessecary, strange.

    94. Queen Bee — on 1st August, 2006 at 12:26 pm  

      I think that this shows how things run. It really is the case that an individual of no standing, with an agenda, completely marginal, of a certain kind, can pander to a newspaper, rant and rage, and the media will lap him up. Hari Kunzru identified this too.

      This is a concocted slice of ‘controversy’, on the one hand manufactured by a wrecking moron, and on the other by a media hungry for retrogressives to put on the page and creating a controversy over nothing. in fact the whole thing is squalid to the core.

      Ultimately, Asians in general lose out, and not only because of the idiocy of the conservatives, but because in the aftermath of these ridiculous affairs, you can be sure that in the minds of many, we are all implicated without nuance or recognition of difference.

      What a pathetic waste of time and energies.

    95. Sid — on 1st August, 2006 at 12:44 pm  

      Anyone see any Bangladeshi women protesting?

      Most of the people I know who have read this book have been Bangladeshi women. Most think that it should burnt not because its a “deadly insult” to Bangladeshis but because its a deadly insult to the good writers, and as noted, many good Bangladeshi women writers who aren’t blessed Arts luvvies and the Sunday Times book reviewers.

      But to be fair to Monica Apa, she has highlighted Bangladeshi patriarchialism fair and square.
      But the anti-Sylhety bias of the book is simply a figment of the imagination of the Sylhety gentlemen who are being bussed into Brick Lane from Birmingham to compare how far along the Brick Lane pavements they can project their pann-spit. Many of these peopel will use the generic term ‘Bengali’ or ‘Dhakaiya’ to refer to non-Sylheties, or rather, the rest of the world.

    96. Kismet Hardy — on 1st August, 2006 at 1:20 pm  

      Sid I like you so much

    97. Sunny — on 1st August, 2006 at 1:31 pm  

      Reading some of the comments on this topic on some of the CiF thread, I think it is impossible for this kind of occurence and incident to be debated in good faith by many people, who conflate many different issues, and view it as an opportunity to vent their spleen of prejudice against Bangladeshis/Muslims/Asians in general.

      QueenBee, I don’t know. Yes that is usually the case but I believe it depends on how you write and approach the issue too. I don’t get that much racist rubbish on my articles as others have done.

    98. Sid — on 1st August, 2006 at 2:01 pm  

      Kismet and I you.

      Asif Baul: I agree with you completely but I think Ruby Films had no choice but to bow out of location filming because of the angry Bangladeshi morons who have taken to the streets in protest. In the absence of an equally loud and well-publicised voice to counterpoint the reactionary paan-frothing from the ‘Campaign Against Monica Ali’s Film Brick Lane’ group by moderate Bangladeshi voices, I don’t see what else they could have done.

    99. Queen Bee — on 1st August, 2006 at 3:05 pm  


      Maybe. But I just looked at Natasha Walter’s thread again and saw calls for a ‘Quran burning party’ and plenty of other obnoxious generalisations made by bigots. We can never ever win with this kind of thing. The bigots on both sides become emboldened, and we are assaulted from both sides.

    100. sonia — on 1st August, 2006 at 3:07 pm  

      Anyhow. Getting past all the vitriol..

      Arif ( as he usually does!) did have some good points in what he said in his post up above ( sorry cant be bothered to scroll up to get no.!)

      yes it’s important to understand the situation of the folks who’re upset about this. and yep its important to be constructive and not just dis them. ( though that was fun and im sure we’d all be very polite if we met them all on the street burning books :-) )

      regardless of the specifics of who was actually out on the street shouting or whatever, its certainly understandable if you’re a bit old and you’ve worked really hard to get your family over here and things seem hostile and different and you’re not really sure what’s going on and you’re concerned for your kids ( and prob. your daughters more) etc. etc. and insecurity and these underlying worries can contribute to feeling vulnerable and threatened then getting more worked up. allied to the complexity re: group identity and representation in a more political sense then its not surprising that objection to a book has snowballed, or it’s become the focus, an outlet for the other frustrations. and its also clear from what stuff other people have said, Forzana for example made some good points about how young people are in any case negotiating their own space without having to ‘conflict’ with the older generation, and how the media has exacerbated the situation - the sort of thing which doesn’t tend to help with internal community dynamics which are complex anyway.

      So i guess its certainly worth working out ways in which to address the concerns of the older generation /’elders’ - have - or for a start, working out what they are.

    101. Leon — on 1st August, 2006 at 3:49 pm  

      And yet another piece on CiF about this (although this one looking at the more interesting free PR side of things):

    102. realitist — on 2nd August, 2006 at 4:09 am  

      The Invader Omar when he took Alexandria put to flames all the books he could find, for as he explained, “If they contain the same as the Quran we need not read them, and if they contain the opposite of it we dont want to read them.”

    103. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 3rd August, 2006 at 12:12 am  

      Fortunately realitist, no one thinks that way anymore in the 21st Century …



    104. Jav — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:02 pm  

      I quite like this bit from Sarfraz Manzoor’s article as it seems to reflect reality:

      “It is astonishing how many of the writers credited with telling typically Asian stories are in fact atypical - either Oxbridge-educated, mixed race, in mixed-race relationships or all of the above. Whether it is Monica Ali, Hanif Kureishi and Hari Kunzru, or Gautam Malkani, Nirpal Dhaliwal and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, these are writers sufficiently of the culture to be able to exploit and extract from their heritage, and for their publishers to claim they are authentic, but also, in a strictly literal sense, exceptional.”

    105. Jav — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:09 pm  

      Following on… isn’t it time we has spectrum of writers and on different issues, subjects etc!

    106. Sunny — on 4th August, 2006 at 2:16 pm  

      Jav - that is the case with most writers anyway. Not jst Asian ones. And as far as I know Dhaliwal wasn’t oxbridge. He is only famous because of his wife.

    107. Crick — on 7th August, 2006 at 11:16 pm  

      Thank god some people had the guts to protest this witches portrayal of Bangladeshi people. We have to live in the area you know. Its not easy with everyone poking their collective noses into our culture. At the end of the day Bangladeshi people dont butt into other proples business like that so leave us be.

    108. Bengali — on 21st August, 2006 at 12:05 pm  


      But what’s the point Zafraz Manzoor is making? Why should writers need to be authentic, eh, that is the big question that Monical Ali has spawned?

      And then he goes and makes his whole career out of milking ‘I am from Luton, and Pakistani, and am working class’ but then made it to Ladbroke with all the other media darlings, and no, doubt, he will soon be telling us, he is not in a mixed relationship. No coincidence that he is writing his book then. People who wear their heritage like an albatrose around are just as cring-worthy as the wanna-bees.

    109. Bengali — on 21st August, 2006 at 12:07 pm  

      Typos corrected


      But what’s the point Zafraz Manzoor is making? Why should writers need to be authentic, eh, that is the big question that Monical Ali has spawned?

      And then he goes and makes his whole career out of milking ‘I am from Luton, and Pakistani, and am working class’ but then made it to Ladbroke with all the other media darlings, and no, doubt, he will soon be telling us, he is not in a mixed relationship. No coincidence that he is writing his book then. People who wear their heritage like an albatrose around their neck are just as cring-worthy as the wanna-bees.

    110. Sharifa — on 21st August, 2006 at 1:00 pm  

      Does anyone else like me think the reaction to Greer’s defence of the Bangladeshis in East London is more insightful than the actual protests? Who is feeling threatened? The Bangladeshis who dislike the book or those that listed a crap book for the booker prize and liked the book and now feel silly that indeed one feminist literary giant, albeit, white, might actually agree that Ali’s book is crap and therefore perhaps not such a treat text on the tyranny of the Bangladeshi patriacharcial system. Sorry, can’t spell, but you get the point.

      I would’ve protested at the filming of the book, too, as I keep saying it’s a democreatic right, as is Monical Ali’s right to write the book. It’s really no big deal.

    111. Jav — on 21st August, 2006 at 3:14 pm  

      Agree with Sharifa,

      Monica Ali can write what ever she wants (this is a free country after all!). The film makers also have the right to film wherever they want… the protesters have the right to protest peacefully… this includes in front of the camera!! However, one of the problems with this is that it adds to Monica’s PR and potential book sales (I think she’s a crap writer frankly and doesn’t really deserve the attention).

    112. Sharifa — on 21st August, 2006 at 4:04 pm  

      Sure, it only adds to Monica’s PR because everyone keeps moaning about the protests. If we left the protest alone and accepted that the people depicted in the novel felt offended, we can move on. No need to write about it in the Guardian or for the Guardian to give air time to it.

      Why do people get so upset that the Bangladeshis in Brick Lane object to their lives depicted? The majority hate the book, and that’s the democratic verdict on the book, there are some that don’t, and that’s the minority verdict on the book. There is no mystery to it.

      Personally I think people are allowed to protest in ways that are appropriate to them. Salman Rushdie and his English Pen friends don’t need to stand in Brick Lane and shout because they have the pen which is mighter than the.. whereas ordinary folks best speak with their feet - we shouldn’t rubbish people’s actions because they are not busy writing/emailing to Guardian Comments sections.
      I think the people in Brick Lane, are demonstrating their Britishness - freedom of expression is a very British ideal, even if, unfortunately for English Pen, it cuts both ways.

    113. Shahana — on 22nd August, 2006 at 4:37 am  

      I know loads of gals in East London, who like me, don’t like the book either - but unlike our men, we have lots of work to get on with so didn’t get the time to protest - like women across all cultures, we do double shifts - at home and in the home with the kids. We won’t have to priviledge our views because we’re from ‘the community’ but we do refer to ‘us’ as a group when we say ‘the women aren’t represented’, the politics of representation, eh, is a murky business. There’s no shame in acknowledging minority groups feel threatened and protest - that’s what comes from living a in mostly homegenous Britain. Yes, I, do feel threatened that my lifestyle and culture has been depicted in ways that I don’t agree with. English people don’t complain as much because well, this is stating the obvious - they is the majority. When did the English ever look to defend identity - hell, we don’t even know what English culture is - the surest sign of a confident culture is never having to define or defend what you stand for against a defining other ( sorry to get academic in this).

      Sunny - you say protesting has been targetted at mostly women. Not so. The biggest protests world wide was against Mr Rushdie.

      But on w ider point. Rushdie did alright - is alive and well, dating gorgeous Indian babes three times younger than himself- don’t see how an Asian sugar daddy can wade in and speak against the patricarchy in East London.

      Yes, publishing is a tough one to crack for everyone in the game.

      Sonya, plenty of younger Bangladeshis object to Brick Lane - perhaps more than the elders who haven’t read the book.

      It is not necessary for writers to do write authentically, but the search for authenticy is compelling- most writers unless they are magic realists or fantasists (even Lord of the Rings draws on Christain mythology) draw on some sense of reality. It’s what makes writing refreshing, dynamic, and ORIGINAL. I think lots of readers & publishers of Brick Lane thought this to be the case and enjoyed for its authenticy wrapped up in fiction. If they were honest.. and now defending the book on other grounds completely. But it’s just fiction…

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