Islam and Muslim Identities in Four Contemporary British Novels
The aim of the dissertation is to explore how Islam is depicted and Muslim identities are constructed in four representative works of contemporary British fiction: Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album, Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, Fadia Faqir’s My Name is Salma, and Leila Aboulela’s Minaret. Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses is also discussed in terms of its crucial role in fostering what some Muslims might consider polemical and stereotypical positions in writing about Islam. The term ‘Islamic postcolonialism’ provides the theoretical underpinning to the thesis. Islamic postcolonialism is a theoretical perspective that combines two components which have up until now existed in a state of tension. As a secular theory, postcolonialism has notably failed to account for Muslim priorities; it has, for instance, had severe problems critiquing the anti-Islam polemics of The Satanic Verses, as is evidenced by Edward Said’s support for Rushdie, in spite of his criticism of the stereotypical representation of Islam and Muslims in the West. Islamic postcolonialism applies the anti-colonial resistant methodology of postcolonialism from a Muslim perspective, exploring the continuance of colonial discourse in part of the contemporary western writing about Islam and Muslims.\ud Applying Islamic postcolonialism to the novels in question, the thesis tests the following questions: 1. How are Islam and Muslims depicted in the novels discussed? 2. Is the depiction of Islam similar to, and if so in what ways, its depiction in the literature of the colonial period? 3. Is there a connection between the writer’s personal\ud 2\ud religious commitment and the image of Islam and Muslims he/she inscribes in the novel? The four novels are then classified according to three categories: Hanif Kureishi’s The Black Album and Monica Ali’s Brick Lane depict Islam and Muslims stereotypically, from a partially colonial perspective. Secondly, Fadia Faqir’s My Name is Salma adopts a mixed colonial and postcolonial depiction of Islam and Muslims. While it depicts the centrality of Islam in a Muslim society (Hima, Jordan) stereotypically, the novel appears more sympathetic in imaging Islam in England under the conditions of the personal and the marginal. Thirdly, Leila Aboulela’s novel Minaret is the one text that complies with an Islamic postcolonial perspective. The failure of secularism and re-emergence of Islam in the Arab world is, Waïl Hassan contends, the background to the achievement of Aboulela’s fiction. Her image of Islam and Muslims is unique in British fiction as it provides a new depiction of these categories from the standpoint of a more authentic Muslim voice. Minaret, it is argued, is an Islamic postcolonial novel both because it celebrates Islam, and because Najwa adopts Islam as her first identity in metropolitan London, which once represented the colonial centre from which her native Sudan was colonised.
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