Islam and its Reflection in Contemporary British Literature. A Course Book

Scientific Essay, 2015

57 Pages


Table of contents:

1. Introduction
1.1. Sociological background
1.2. Migration to England
1.3. England’s development into a multicultural society from the Muslim point of view.

2. Religious Background
2.1. Religious Fundamentalism
2.2. 9/11
2.3. British Fundamentalism

3. The modern English Novel

4. Islam and Fundamentalism in British Fiction

5. Preface: Novels
5.1. Literary Parameters
5.2. The purpose of life
5.3. Failure
5.4. Powerlessness
5.5. Hybridity and literature under the focus of Islam

6. Preface Novels
6.1. Salman Rushdie The Satanic Verses
6.2. Structure of ´The Satanic Verses`
6.3. Hanif Kureishi – The Black Album (1995)
6.4. Hamid Mohsin The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007)
6.5. Monica Ali – Brick Lane (2003)
6.6. Anna Perera Guantanamo Boy (2009)

7. Outlook

8. Conclusion

9. Bibliography

1. Introduction

This reader is about English writers with a Muslim background and the variety of the literary reflection of their main characters.

Modern literature influenced by theses writers can only be understood reflection if one has a closer look at the historical, political and social background which have marked and shaped modern Britain in time of migration and globalization. The main reason for this does not only lie in the fact that literature in general is a reflection of all these forces which seen to focus on one central question – the question of modern man and his identity.

Part of this identity has always been religion. It is one of the most important driving forces especially in a foreign surrounding where it is challenged. It is thus a logical development that the question of Muslim identity connected to actual topics such as Huntington’s idea of a “Clash of Civilization” 1 has been looking for a literary outlet.

Islam as one of the world’s leading religions had and still has to find its place in Europe and this struggle which is constantly pushed by actual trends of worldwide developments (military involvement of Western countries in Arabic states, civil uproar in Arab countries, influx of Muslim immigrants to Europe, xenophobia in Western states, living conditions of immigrants, the change of Islam in the West etc.) can be found in a reflection of Muslim writers.

The situation has dramatically changed since the attacks of the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 which is simply remembered as 9/11 and the bombings which took place in 2005 in Great Britain.

The religious foundation for these attacks can be found in Islamic fundamentalism which is used as the main ideological weapon of radical Muslim against the West and which practices a strict separation between politics and religion. Islam being an identity marker for Muslims is thus completed by its radical form Islamic fundamentalism which does fulfill this presupposition as well. Being a logical consequence of both forms of self-expression of Islam has become a center of attention for writers with a Muslim background. They use religion mainly for two aims – firstly to describe and characterize their main characters and secondly to analyze modern Islam along its position in today’s world and to throw a

(critical) light on their Western surrounding and the so called ´Old Empire`2.

A cursory look at the common position in the literary debate of a ranking of ethnic literature coming from minorities always hints at the incorporation of topics connected to globalization a phenomenon found in all novels presented here.

The planned reader therefore can be seen as a contribution to the present debate of the literary position of authors who have a migrant background which is accompanied by Islamic elements.

1.1. Sociological background

The international phenomenon’s of migration3 and globalization and their results such as the gap between the so called first, second and third world, poverty, loss of cultural and religious identity and the strength of religious fundamentalism have also influenced and shaped modern literature.

The aim of migration in general has been and will be a change of living conditions to the better and economical success (Han, 2006, 1).

History has shown to mankind that movements of people have brought massive economical and religious changes although each change must be seen in its own historic context4 (s. Oswald, 2007, p. 3).

In the past migration – in most cases – was connected to phenomenons such as flight, expulsion or looking for new land. Its foundations were based on economical or military reasons. Modern times consider the 19th century as the century of labour migration, whereas the 20th century is seen as a time span of migration due to expulsion. Because of the increasing military clashes before and after the second world war migration movements could be found all over the world. The trend of today’s migration movement seem to be a mix military and economical reasons with a trend to the later one (see Oswald, 2007, p. 64).

Migration strictly speaking is based on three dimensions such as:

1. a change of place
2. a change of social networks in the sense of an improvement of living conditions (e. g. the emancipation of women from a basically male structured society (see Treibel, 2009, p. 103-123)
3. borderline experiences in the widest sense of the word (see Handlin, 1963; Chailand/ Rageau 1995; Oswald 2007).5
Migration in general meant a transportation of cultural, social and religious heritage which clashed with structures of those societies which had already established and developed themselves in those parts of the world where the influx of migrants went to.

Religions or religious structures which were transported with migration processes to a new surrounding very often developed more fundamental and more radical structures than at home. This seems to be natural because a new and often hostile surrounding is a main reason for keeping ones identity of which religion is a central element.

Taking all this into account it is quite astonishing that research in general has ignored or simply neglected the close relationship between migration and religion. Lehmann (2005) pinpoints this with the following words:

“Das Thema Migration wurde in den letzten Jahren und Jahrhunderten mit vielerlei Problemen und Fragen in Verbindung gebracht, nicht aber, oder jedenfalls nur höchst selten, mit dem Thema Religion“ (ibid., p. 13).

Considering all this one is not surprised at all that the constellation of modern migration to Europe from an Islamic point of view is of tremendous importance since Islam not only seems to be a cultural and religious threat to the West but also found a literary expression in novels which brought along a new and different insight into Western life from a Muslim point of view.

Part of this religious insight into the religious world of Muslims in Europe is the militant branch of Islam, known as fundamentalism. Muslim Fundamentalism in general (as all kinds of other religious fundamentalism as well) can be seen in the light of modern migration and historical developments such as the expansion of the British Empire or US capitalism. This close relationship between past developments and modern process or religions under the focus of migration and globalization die not only bring back religious elements (Roy, 2010a, pp. 225-226) but not also responsible for a separation of religion from concepts of territory, society or state. In short:

“Der Fundamentalismus ist die am besten an die Globalisierung angepasste Form des Religiösen, weil er seine eigene Dekulturation akzeptiert und daraus seinen Anspruch auf Universalität ableitet“ (Roy, 2010a, p. 24; compare as well: Davie, 2007; Sarazin, 2010; Berger, 2010).

This isolation from the rest of society can be seen best in global cities, the classical places for modern migrants since the 19th century. Here cultural and ethnic separation is typical (Nuschler, 2009, p.25) since this seems to be the best and most ideal way to keep cultural and religious identity.

The fact that this holding on to an old identity is also closely connected to missionary work is not surprising since any separation automatically means focusing on ones own standpoint. There are yet two negative results stemming from this trend to religious fundamentalism. The first is a destruction of a positive notion deeply rooted in the concept of modern migration. The talk is about the so called ‘win-win-situation’ which includes the fact their work force and their cultural, ethical and religious heritage. Fundamentalists don’t want this – they don’t exercise tolerance of whatever kind.

The second result is the development of a strong, social control system which destroy all efforts of independent concepts of individual and social life (Treibel, 2009, pp.114/115).

One can therefore finally say that the latest developments concerning migration and globalization stand for a dissolution of national, ethical and religious borders which create an atmosphere of worldwide unity and universality. This feeling is an illusion since it does not solve the problem of human solidarity – it rather supports the splitting of it. The driving force behind this is modern capitalism mainly because it is based on profit making an idea which is responsible for the present economic, cultural, and religious turmoil in the world. One reaction to this development is the return of religious in general and religious fundamentalism in particular. They seem to offer a real alternative.

1.2. Migration to England

In the past migration to England was basically based on two different types. The first type consisted of a military background whose aim was conquest. The list of invaders here ranges from Romans, Vikings, Anglo Saxons to the Normanns. Although one can speak of no permanent foreign invasion the effects on the English language and culture are unquestioned.

With the end of the Middle Ages another more peaceful invasion replaced the former more military coined one. Migration to England shortly and especially after the period of the Renaissance was based on economical and religious reasons – two new features of migration which were often mixed.

The result of the changes taking place in Europe at that time (Humanism, the Reformation, persecution of Jews, economic expansion of the Hanse etc.) saw an influx of many different people who first settled in harbours and then in big cities like London.6 It was here where they formed their own communities which were economically, politically and religiously active and thus challenged racial responses from the English population:

“By the early nineteenth century we can see that the foundations had been laid for some of the most important communities to develop in the century and a half that followed, notably the Germans, Jews and Irish. Both migration patterns and, more especially, ethnic institutions had developed. In addition, racial ideas and traditions of racism had been formulated.” (Panayi, 1994, p. 21; also compare Aldermann, 1993, p. 129).

This beginning racism held its position for quite a long time and counterreactions from the governments can only be called to have been reluctant (e. g. Jewish Bills; Test and Corporations Acts 1828; Liberty of Religious Worship Acts 1858; Aliens Act 1905; Aliens Restriction Acts 1976; The British Nationality Act 1981; The Public Order Act 1986).

The last two centuries which saw an increasing influx of Irish immigration and after the Second World War an increasing migration trend from former colonies changed the face of England tremendously and saw an creasing importance of religion. Whereas Irish Catholicism was not really seen as a religious and cultural threat things became different when immigrants from Pakistan or Bangladesh transported Islam to England. They not only formed their own cultural and religious ghettos but also used their religion as the most important root for their identity – in short Islam became an ethnic marker and was and is mainstream society of modern Britain.

In short Muslim migration to England and the separation from this western society can be seen as a result of Islam being the pillar of migration to the West:

The conditions for immigration and the climate of receptivity for religious expression will vary considerably from one country to another, and for this reason what we report for Los Angeles will not be replicated exactly anywhere else. Nevertheless, we have identified certain recurrent religious features of the immigrant experience in this city, and we will conclude by simply listing them for consideration be researchers in other place:

- Immigrants to the West often come from religiously traditional societies and their worldviews are likely to be strongly religiously influenced;
- Immigration is itself a ‘theologizing’ experience because it forces into focus certain basic questions about collective memories and shared identities;
- Immigration is typically not an individual act, but rather relies on networks of trust; shared religious beliefs, values, and habits can be the basis for such trust;
- Immigrants in their new homeland have reason to join organized often built around shared religion;
- When they are permitted to do so, immigrants are likely to use religion quite deliberately to recover, protect, and pass on their ‘chains of cultural memory’;
- And immigrant religion often provides an ideological and organizational framework for participation in the civic life of the larger society.

It is good to keep these considerations in mind wherever immigration is the object of investigation. Religion is never the whole story of immigration, but it is nearly always an important part of the story.” (Miler, 2005, p. 122)

Modern England, its multicultural face and the importance of Muslim incorporation into it basically pose the most important tasks for todays British society which still lacks a profoundly fair system of immigration in the face of Muslim presence.7

A closer look at political parties, their leaders and their responsibility towards immigrants and their integration into British society prove this. Basically speaking Labour and Conservative here failed. Margaret Thatscher’s concept of free enterprise which so radically changed and shaped England in the seventies and eighties of the last century favoured a monoculturel notion deeply rooted in everything which can be called to be British. Tony Blair instead combined free enterprise with the multicultural idea (see Panayi 2001) but the aftermath of 9/11, the Gulf War with British involvement and the attacks on the London Tube in 2005 stopped this positive idea. So when Tony Blair in 2006 delivered his famous speech Shared British Values: the Duty to Integrate things had already turned to the worse because British society and Muslim groups seemed to have different notions about such others role.

Apart from worldwide military reactions and developments, homemade reasons like a high number of unemployment, a worldwide economic recession, the importance of globalization, mass migration to the West and the new power and pride of Muslim – all this taken together formed a mix where religion (in this case Islam) became more and more important. This importance ranges from the experience of migration and a hidden or open racism to a key to identity in a place where Muslim culture and religion seem to be the only safe basis.

Thus todays modern Britain is not only the product of developments having taken place in the last 40 to 50 years but also a reflection and example of modern migration and the new position of religion in times of worldwide globalization and migration processes.

1.3. England’s development into a multicultural society from the Muslim point of view.

The influx of Muslim immigration into Britain after the Second World War must above all be seen in the face of labour and employment, both central aspects of modern capitalism. In the case of Great Britain these two economic elements must also be set in the aftermath of the so called British Empire which was ideologically, culturally, religiously and economically orientated in the exploitation of the former colonies.

“Muslim immigration and settlement in Great Britain is the result of a late imperial process common to all of western Europe, including the Federal Republic of Germany. (Migration of labour to move the machinery of the industrial powers has been a characteristic of economic imperialism. It is, therefore, no coincidence that labour migration into Britain should originate in those former British colonies which had previously been regarded as resources only of material wealth. Muslim immigration into Britain only became consciously Muslim at a later stage. Initially, as elsewhere, migration was for work, for economic reasons; only later did it change character in such a way as to bring religious and cultural identity into focus.” (Nielson, 1984, p. 1; see also Rath et al, 2001, p. 259).

This historic mix of the Empire and its concept of colonialism Muslim immigration to Britain and the multicultural England we see today must be seen in a historic context (also see Fuchs, 2003, pp. 2-3; 118; 139); Helyer, 2007, p. 226; Pelizaeus, 2008, pp. 214-217; 231-235).

Basically speaking the first waves of Muslim immigration consisted of mostly male members from certain families and clans in Pakistan and Bangladesh yet the latest statistics show a trend of female immigrants.

Down the years the structure of Muslim communities developed the following structure:

- islamic communities in England are mostly young
- their different ethnic background does not show a homogenous structure
- the reason for a stronger influx to England can be seen in a mix of economic pressure, globalization and political instability in many countries
- the combination of immigration and work is responsible for a settlement in big cities like London

The increasing influx of Muslims to England did not bring along a general sensibility for ethnic or religious minorities until the 80s and 90s of the last century when the so called Swan Report started to tackle this problem.

This sudden public interest had its background in the concept of the British nation as a multicultural society and the integrated notion of political pluralism in a democratic state:

“... a multi-racial society such as ours would in fact functions most effectively and harmoniously on the basic of pluralism which enables, expects and encourages members or all ethnic groups, both minority and majority, to participate fully in shaping the society as a whole within a framework of commonly accepted values, practices and procedures, whilst also allowing and, where necessary, assisting the ethnic minority communities in maintaining their distinct ethnic identities within this common framework”. (Swann Report, p. 5).

It yet has to be pointed out that the (positive) ideas of the Swann Report – politically and religiously – could not be realized. Two main reasons were the lack of a parliamentary majority and the fear of the Anglican church to loose Christian traditions.

The result was a retreat of Muslim groups from public discussions and involvement into their own communities plus the beginning strength and influence of fundamentally orientated groups.

Apart from public discussions taking place on immigration and integration of ethnic minorities one here has to hint at developments taking place within the Muslim communities themselves. The talk is about a structural change of Muslim communities. As already pointed out the first waves of Muslim immigration to Great Britain were basically conditions in England and at home. Down the years this close connection to home lost its power and immigrants with a rural background had to make their living in global cities such as London. Within the Muslim communities women slowly but steadily began to give up their traditional role of staying at home and educating children. But it was mainly the children of the third or fourth generation of immigrants which were able to keep a connection to British society mainly at schools. These generations born and raised in England were flexible enough to live their religion in a mainly Christian surrounding but it was exactly them who were the first to see militant Islam as a real alternative to a life in the West.

The enormous number of mosques being built in England in the 70s and 80s formed the ideal platform for this new development and the beginning clash of two cultures was only a question of time since these young Muslims more and more seem to stand between two worlds which both demand responsibility and obedience in the widest sense of the word. Economic pressure such as a high number of unemployment and the feeling to be second class citizens also opened the doors for a new type of Islam which seemed to be a real alternative.8

2. Religious Background

2.1. Religious Fundamentalism

Religious Fundamentalism in Islam strictly speaking implies a return to the roots of this religion and the stressing of some elements of central importance.

Fundamentalism should not be mistaken with Islamism which is nothing else but the political idealization of Islam.

Fundamentalism in Islam does not know a concept of state or nation it is only interested in a transformation of the believer into the strict and rigid frame of the Sharia (islamic law) Which governs all fields of life.9

The ongoing discussion in this concept of Islam show that the terms Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism – although they seem to have a plain and clear basis – in fact involve a variety of possibilities in the spiritual, political and legal fields of society. In short:

“Whatever it is called, modern Islamism is a complex and multifaceted Phenomenon” (Stepanova, 2008, p. 61).

There are yet certain traits which are typical for fundamentalism in Islam and which are of importance here:

1. Fundamentalism stresses certain religious convictions as being absolute and connects them with structures for a new identity.
2. It develops strategies of absolute and prevailing character and sets them above private and social interests.
3. It creates the context of point one and two while politiciseing all living conditions.

As a result fundamentalism is some kind of social movement which considers life in the West along modern life in general as being hostile. Fundamentalists thus try to bring back God into modern life from which he was expelled by man. To bring God back into man’s world the world is divided into certain hemispheres which are battlefields. These are

- the House of Peace (the place where Islam already rules)
- the House of War (the place where Islam has to fight)
- the House of Treaty (the place where Islam is tolerated)

In reality modern fundamentalism can also be considered to be a protest against the colonial, economical and military superiority of the west. It thus can be considered to be a product of today.

In contrast to other concepts of the world it disposes a visionary aspect to great attraction and it seems to give clear answers to all questions. The aim is a religious structure of the complete political, social and personal life of Muslims and the realization of the ideals of Islam which can e found in the return to the religious sources, the Quran and the Sunna. If one goes away from this idealistic concept of Islamic fundamentalism it quickly becomes obvious that the aims of fundamentalists are power and political influence (Minaty, 2009, p. 3) along with the wish to replace the political concept of a state with the religious one. Another aim is to create perfect human beings, perfect believers – a concept of man which is frightening because it disposes a dualistic concept of the world and of mankind, it is so to speak an exclusive concept of the world.

Berger (2010) connects this dualistic element with a lacking economic flexibility of Muslim countries and the feeling of helplessness against the West:

“To be more specific, fundamentalism is a phenomenon that is rooted in the epistemic dynamics of late modernity. Whatever else fundamentalism may be – and it is very complex and multidimensional phenomenon – it’s a defensive reaction to the fragmentation pluralisation of knowledge and understanding that are part and parcel of our time” (ebd. S. 17).

2.2. 9/11

The terror attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11th, 2001, have definitely changed the world. The result was a division of the world into two opposing sides, the world of the West and the world of Islam. This division also had tremendous political, economical, moral and religious consequences whose results are yet unknown. The ‘Global War On Terror' (GWOT) which was then announced by president George Bush had the aim to destroy a fiction enemy and to secure economical interests of the United States in the East along the tradition of Kipling’s notion of “The Great Game”. That this war was started with religious terms such as ‘an eye for an eye’ and ‘a tooth for a tooth’ and the concept of a holy war (see Meyssan, 2003, p. 88; Reese/ Lewis 2009) simply proofed the fact that the traditional American enemy (Communism) had been replaced by a new one (Islam) although both were settled in the East (Huhnholz, 2010, p. 51). As Sullivan (2001) put it:

“This is a religious war. September 9/11 was only the beginning” (Sullivan 7/10/2001).

This date – whose traumatic consequences can be compared to the attacks on Pearl Harbour and the Vietnam War – was closely connected to the terror network of Al Quaida and its leader Osama Bin Laden. With Osama Bin Laden and his terror networks a radical ideologisation set in and fundamentalists suddenly had a key figure who represented their ideals and aims personally, intellectually and militarily and who seem to be able to destroy this world:

“The islamic fundamentalists in wrecking havoc on America had appeared, almost at a stroke, to put the whole globe out of kilter. The attacks had ‘changed everything’. The security of the entire state order appeared to be imminently threatened by the Islamic fundamentalists led by Osama Bin Laden. The palpable fear was that ‘evil’ might triumph over ‘good’, ‘Islam’ symbolized by al-Quaeda would threaten the established foundation of ‘modern society’ “. (Milton-Edwards, 2005, S. 133)

The ongoing military involvement of the United States and their allies in countries like Irak or Afghanistan along with the processes of modern migration, globalization and the civil uproar of people in Tunesia, Egypt, Lybia or Syria could intensify this development unless it does not succeed to present an alternative to Islam as the only offer to Muslim identity. A permanent offer to Muslim identity since 9/11 all over the world is modern fundamentalism since it best tackles the biggest problems of Muslims, their historically based inferiority complex against the West, their present economical failure and their up rootedness in the West.

The West and its leaders must reflect their historic gulit and they must be open for a fair dialogue. Milton-Edwards, 2005, on this:

“Most conservative explanations of the fundamentalist phaenomenon in Islam, however, ignore this explanation. Muslims are blamed for their own failings and the failure of their societies. The role of the West was signified merely as ‘quiet indifference’ rather than the relentless expressions of a foreign policy agenda designed to facilitate the national interest of Western states above all others. In some cases the challenges have been met head-on with islamic opposition and even revolution. In all that time, however, Islamic fundamentalism –however it is defined – has remained dynamic”. (ibid, p. 134)

If the two camps are not open for a fair dialogue and this is one result of 9/11 four tendencies remain possible:

1. The clash of civilizations will continue (Huntington thesis).
2. The foundations for an honest dialogue of Islam, Judaism and Christianity are created.
3. Islam as such opens itself (religiously and politically) in the sense of a reformation or secularization.
4. Islamic countries must (as a consequence from 3) change the legal position of the Sharia which still rules Muslim life.
5. Both sides must give up their traditional prejudices. The West must go away from the idea that Islam is the problem for world peace, radical Muslims must give up their central notion that Islam is the only solution to all kinds of problems.
6. Muslim government must tolerate the spreading of modern media, the access to fair information and the wish of their people to more democracy (e. g. civil uproar in 2011 in Egypt, Lybia, Syria etc.).

Today the results of 9/11 can basically be seen in the fact that militant Islam is still active all over the world. The killing of Osama Bin Laden in 2011 did not really change much. In the West radical Muslims are still active in global cities like Berlin, Paris or London and their aim is the destruction of the West and its values. Ongoing migration waves and the process of globalization are responsible for a further spread of radical ideas.

Although Barrack Obama seems to follow a more moderate way his change from a GWOT to the idea of a ‘long war’ (Hardy, 2010, p. 196) simply shows how difficult the situation is. Yet this concept of a war not only with military but also political and economical weapons still has to prove its effectiveness.

This definitely is a task of global scale which has to be tackled. If not things since 9/11 could turn out to be more dangerous than ever:

“The triple challenge, then, is to understand Islam, Islamism and jihadist in all their diversity: to appreciate the roots of Muslim grievance; and, on this basis, to craft a set of co-ordinate policies – local, regional and global – designed to foster a less hostile and more equitable relationship between the West and Islam. A tall order? As tall as the Twin Towers. But without a new approach, based on a super grasp of Islamism and its discontents, the Muslim revolt will continue for generations to come”. (Hardy, 2010, p. 202)

Whatever development will taken place two things since 9/11 are unquestioned. First, the world has become different and will stay different. Second, and this is important for the concept of this reader a literary incorporation of Islam, Muslim fundamentalism and events like 9/11 are of interest for Islamic or Western writers and their readers.

2.3. British Fundamentalism

“My generation of young British Muslims was torn between two cultures” (Husain, 2007, p. 69)

This statement given by an ex radical Muslim fundamentalist seems to be typical for young Muslims of the second or third generation.

This generation was born and raised in Great Britain, went to British kindergardens and schools and seemed to be integrated. Yet this was only one side of the coin. Next to this seemingly stable Western and British side did they also experience prejudices, discrimination, unemployment and a life in ghettos.

These negative experiences allowed an easy access for radical ideas which were fostered by world wide actions against Muslims (relations to 9/11, Gulf Wars etc.). The result was a life in a so called “complex, post-national, post 9/11 society” (Appleton, 2005, p. 171) and problems of their identity and belonging became essential.

Thus questions like “Are we Muslims in Britain or Muslims of Britain?” (ibid., p. 178) which till allowed an access of hybridity (i. e. a life in two cultures) were soon confronted with an alternative in the sense of a radically religious life.

The offer of a life in the ummah (group of believers) and the possibility of getting back strength and self-confidence were extremely tempting and logical:

“What stands out is the overwhelming sense that the younger generation is being hemmed in by both their own community, with its cultural responsibilities, and a wider society focused on individualism. In this pressure cooker tension, a political Islamic identity offers an attractive alternative. It gives clear answers: good guys, bad guys. You know where you stand.” (Akhtar 23.10.2005)

This of course did not mean that all young Muslims were automatically fundamentalists but radical islam found an easy access to many of them because here a whole generation was looking for answers about their role in life.

Traditional islamic teaching and preaching could also not fill this demand and the result was a permanent confrontation with British society.

The aim of these fundamentalists was and still is the erection of the caliphate and the way to do this was the path of the Jihad, the holy war.10

The ongoing attraction for radical Islam among young Muslim in Great Britain still poses a dangerous threat for England’s society and the political parties along with British society have to react.

All reactions so far cannot be considered to be successful. One reason has been a tolerant handling with radical Muslim who have found political asylum in England for decades. The result of this was not only a rejection of the British state but also the founding of radical organization such as the MAB (Muslim Association of Britain) or the CBM (Council of British Muslims) along with an open rejection of integration or assimilation and the practice of the Sharia (Islamic Law) in contrast to British law (Common Law).

So in the long run radical Islam can only be fought along successfully if British policy makers offer a fair concept of integration while respecting each minority group and its cultural and religious background. If this can be realized there will be the chance to dry out radical ideas may they be political, moral or religious. The alternative to this positive approach to multi-cultural diversity still is a radical form of Islam which poses a permanent threat to the state.

Hanif Kureishi (2005) exactly talks about this danger while reflecting the social consequences:

“The real differences in Britain today are not political, or even based on class, but are arranged around race and religion, with their history of exploitation, humiliation and political helplessness.” (ibid, p. 6)

3. The modern English Novel

The reflections on the topics migration and globalization under the focus of Muslim immigration to England have made clear that migration in general has too long been looked at from a sociological, economical and political aspect which neglected the importance of religion. Literature itself is partly to blame for this trend, too, since it has put religion and the religious aside for quite a long time. This is astonishing since literature in general and migrant literature in particular are two main factors to describe human migration of which religion is one major element ( Löschnigg/ Löschnigg, 2009, p. 9).

The description of migration in the long run is nothing else something which Chambers (1994) describes as “the making of identities” (ibid., p. 82).

Bhabha (1994) places this central problem of migrants into the framework of his so called “Third Space” (ibid. p. 39). For him this term is something like a fictous place, some sort of contact level where all the different lifes, cultures and religious meet and where they have to get along with each other. Religion as a personal or cultural mode of expressing ones life is here redefined which in the case of Islam can turn out to be radical. Migration and its effects make clear that any construction of identities is a permanent process which includes hybrid forms as well as separation.

‘Fictions of migration’ (Sommer 2001) in the widest sense of the word are strategies to balance migration and to work with it. They also confront the reader with something which can be called otherness and which implies the bringing in of a different perspective with the aim of reflection all positions (i. e. here the Muslim writer and the Western reader).

The modern framework in which the novels presented here taken place stresses the instability of individual and collective identity. It becomes more than clear that the 21st century is instable and temporary. Modern man who lives in global cities seems to live a life which can best be described with religiously marked terms such as diaspora exile or ghetto – all terms describing his isolation.

The aim of confronting this concept of modern man with a religious aspect (in this case Islam) is to reach a contrast between this pluralistic world with a seemingly stable, fixed and different alternative.

While doing this it becomes clear that religion in general and Islam in particular can be looked upon as options to everything which is connected to the West. They also help to reflect the literary key question of identity in a different way since they seem to be the perfect platform for this analysis.

Religion as one modern expression of immigrant literature to Great Britain must yet he seen in the light of the whole achievement of writers whose background cannot be seen in England and its traditional literary heritage.

On the whole it is unquestioned that the literature of the 20th century (as the one of the 21st century is deeply rooted in the tradition of the 19th century. This statement fits best with the novel as its most important literary mode of expression. In the aftermath of their immigration to England ethnic minorities started to write about their experience at home and in England in the 60s and 70s of the last century.

These “visible minorities” (Seeber, 1999, p. 460) integrated unknown and foreign aspects and were all considered to practice ‘postcolonial writing’ (Thieme, 1996) as a counter reaction to (British) colonial writing. For Thieme this term is only partly connected to “all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonizing to the present day” (ibid., p. 1).

Thieme (like Head, 2002, p. 161) here proposes the term hybridization11 which for him seems describe the cultural mix in which migrant authors living in England best. For him the aim of this idea is to create some sort of transcultural literature whose intention is to avoid a classification of nationally and regionally shaped literature. Migrant literature should also separate itself from all political and economical connections with its colonial past. While doing this even literary classifications like British Colonial Literature, Commonwealth Literature or World Literature Written in English should be replaced by a more dynamic term such as Literatures in the English Language.12


1 For comparing the term ´clash of civilization` see: Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order, New York 1996, p. 192-198. As a counter position to Huntington see Dominique Moisi, Kampf der Emotionen. Wie Kulturen der Angst, Demütigung und Hoffnung die Weltpolitik bestimmen, München 2009, pp. 25-34, 123, 225-228.

2 On the role and development of the Old Empire and its successor the United States of America see Scholl-Later, Die Angst des weißen Mannes. Ein Abgesang. Berlin 2009, p. 9. Scholl-Later not only talks about the actual global power shifts but also mentions the fear of the white race in a multicultural society which lacks missionary elements and self-sacrifice. Criticized can be the argument that European governments and states are too naïve and too passive while dealing with Islam in general.

3 Pries (2001) gives a profound survey on the term migration. He constantly stresses its influence for today's world and forces the creation of new political and social realities which are based on an constant exchange of elements from the countries of origin and the countries of arrival (ibid, p. 12ff., 37ff., 49).

4 For a closer and more precise understanding of this background see Angenand (2009). For him globalization is a mix of an increasing mix of international, political and cultural combinations which remind him of a modern version of the classical trade – change – principle (ibid., p. 38). Brosch/ Kunow (2005) add this idea with the notion of an intercultural communication which is a new form of communication and which is the end of the “romance of nation and narration” (ibid., p. 3). Loomba (2005) points out the importance of some kind of “Marktfundamentalismus” (ibid., p. 218) which is responsible for a dissolution of national, cultural, geographical and religious boundaries because it preaches the gospel of economic growth. That all this has a tremendous impact on literature as a reflection of society seems to be logical (Appardurai, 2002, p. 174).

5 Research sections describe these borderline experiences with Handlin’s term “uprooted” (Oswald, 2007, p. 13-14). Three other terms are ‘exile’, ‘ghetto’ or ‘diaspora’ all terms which have strong religious meaning.

6 Sarnowski (2002) also sees this economic tendency of migration in cities like London (ibid. P. 150) and stresses the importance of harbours in those days (ibid. P. 225). See as well: Holmes, 2001, pp. 17-34); Fahrmeier, 2001, pp. 57-72.

7 On the matter of Muslim integration see Lewis 1994; Nielson 1992; Shadid 1995; Konigsveld 2002. On the formation of new ‘transnational communities’ which are a product of Muslim immigration, too, see Bommes/ Halfmann 1998; Kaeble/ Kirsch/ Schmidt-Gerning 2002. Mühleisen (2000) here talks about an enormous social pressure of taking over linguistic patterns of the host society while keeping ones cultural and religious identity (ibid. p. 21).

8 The going back to Islam plus the tendency towards its radical forms clearly show the failure of all political measures being installed up to then. The talk here is about the Race Relations Acts of 1965, 1968 and 1976 which were aimed at shopping the increasing discrimination of immigrants. The Immigration Acts (passed by the Thatcher government) of 1988 slowed down immigration numbers yet were responsible for the ghettos of minorities in big cities. Tony Blair and his NEW Labour Party tried to stop this trend but they couldn’t stop this development from continuing. So Great Britain saw a change from a multi-racial and a multi-ethnic to a multi-cultural society. The latter which became an idealized term was replaced by the notion of cultural diversity. This idea basically stands for basic acceptance of cultural and religious liberty and strictly speaking is against a mixture of different ethnic, cultural and religious groups since all immigrants should keep their identity there. Yet things turned out to be completely different because this idea widened the gap between these groups and thus could also be held responsible for the emergence of militant Islam which could thus develop easily.

9 For a closer look at the term fundamentalism see Juenemann (2000), Burgat (2003), Milton/ Edwards (2005), Huhnholz (2010).

10 The concept of a holy war is deeply rooted in Christian and Muslim religion. It was used to defend or to attack and thus its political and military background is easily clear, For radical Muslims today it is a high aim to follow and to die there a privilege: “Our words are until we give them life with our blood. … Your democratically elected governments perpetuate atrocities against my people and your support of them makes you responsible, just as I am directly responsible for protecting and avenging my Muslim brothers and sisters. Until we feel security, you’ll be our target. Until you stop the bombing, gassing, imprisonment and torture of my people, we’ll not stop the fight. We are at war and I am a soldier. Now you too will taste the reality of this situation.” (Micklethwait/ Wooldridge, 2010, p. 303).

11 A closer look at the term hybridity (Greek origin, i.e. something which is mixed) brings in Homi K. Bhabha (1994) who has coined this expression. For him immigrants coming to Great Britain and having their own cultural and religious background are forced to create some sort of ‘third space’, a place where they are able to create a life in both cultures. Hybridity for him thus is a dynamic concept, always at work with the aim to create situations all people can accept. If you transfer this to Islam and Islamic fundamentalism it becomes obvious right away that they both cannot be integrated into this idea because Islam does not know or accept mixed forms.

12 Other terms which seem to follow this open understanding of immigrant literature are e.g.: Immigrant Fiction (Göbel 1998), Black British Literature (Korte 1998), Fictions of Migration (Sommer 2001) or Cultural Nationalism (Engler-Schulze 2005).

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Islam and its Reflection in Contemporary British Literature. A Course Book
Comenius University in Bratislava
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Matthias Dickert (Author), 2015, Islam and its Reflection in Contemporary British Literature. A Course Book, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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