Writing British Muslims

Religion, class and multiculturalism

By Rehana Ahmed

Writing British Muslims


  • Hardcover

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-1677-2
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £15.99
  • Published Date: March 2017
  • BIC Category: Religion, Literature, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Islamic Studies, LITERARY CRITICISM / General, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: general, Humanities / Islam


The Rushdie affair, September 11 2001 and 7/7 pushed British Muslims into the forefront of increasingly fraught debate about multiculturalism. Stereotyping images have proliferated, reducing a heterogeneous minority group to a series of media soundbites.

This book examines contemporary literary representations of Muslims by British writers of South Asian Muslim descent - including Salman Rushdie, Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali and Nadeem Aslam - to explore the contribution they make to urgent questions about multicultural politics and the place of Muslims within Britain. By focusing on class, and its intersection with faith, 'race' and gender in identity- and community-formation, it challenges the dichotomy of secular freedom versus religious oppression that constrains thinking about British Muslims, and offers a more nuanced perspective on multicultural debates and controversies.


Writing British Muslims is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary Britain's ambivalent, ambiguous and often antagonistic and hostile relationship with its Muslim communities and citizens. Ahmed carefully situates her subtle, precise and perceptive readings of both well-known and lesser known texts within their material contexts of production and reception by paying close attention to the ways in which class and social space always intersect with religion, ethnicity and ideology in determining writing by and about British Muslims. This book is a magnificent example of politically engaged literary criticism that brings original insights to bear on matters of great public concern and debate.
Anshuman Mondal, Reader in English at Brunel University, 11 May 2015

This is the book we have been waiting for. In lucid, accessible prose, Rehana Ahmed charts a path through recent British Muslim writing, exploring how it illuminates a context in which Muslims have become figures of suspicion, tainted by charges of national disloyalty and tarred with supposed pathological tendencies inculcated by their religion. She deftly shows how those writers featured refute such simplifications, while nonetheless having to negotiate the anthropological demands of readers and reviewers keen to gain an authentic insight into allegedly sequestered Muslim life in Britain. Ahmed exposes the tensions between private and public modes of faith, and points out the universalising tendencies and blind spots of aggressive secularists and freedom of speech fundamentalists. Most valuably, in brilliant readings of Monica Ali and Nadeem Aslam in particular, she takes us back to the often-overlooked determinant of class, showing how the right to represent is a product of specific material conditions and histories that continue to shape writing - and reading - in an age of Islamophobia.
Peter Morey, Professor of English and Postcolonial Studies, University of East London, 19 May 2015

'This is a book that a researcher into Muslim Britain cannot ignore.'
Kaiser Haq, Wasafiri


1. Muslim culture, class and controversy in twentieth-century Britain
2. Anti-racism, liberalism and class in The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie affair
3. The limits of liberalism in the work of Hanif Kureishi
4. Locating class in Monica Ali's Brick Lane and its reception
5. Creative freedom and community constraint in Nadeem Aslam's Maps for Lost Lovers
6. Reason to believe? Five British Muslim memoirs


Rehana Ahmed is Lecturer in South Asian Literature in English at Queen Mary University of London

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