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1 ISLAM Monica Ali: Brick Lane Dr. Stephen Ogden LIBS 7023.

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Presentation on theme: "1 ISLAM Monica Ali: Brick Lane Dr. Stephen Ogden LIBS 7023."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 ISLAM Monica Ali: Brick Lane Dr. Stephen Ogden LIBS 7023

2 Religions with Founding Figure Buddhism: ‘the Buddha: ‘enlightened one’ (Siddhartha) Gautama: a prince of 5 th Century BC, in what is now Nepal. Renounced the world (upon, it is said, witnessing peasant suffering), retired, fasted, meditated, returned to preach a gospel of deliverance from suffering by enlightenment. Large number of disciples: helped him spread his message for 40 years until his death at 80. Christianity: ‘the Christ’ ‘the savior’ Jesus of Nazareth: Jewish carpenter of 0 AD. At 30, preached a gospel of pacifism, morality, and charity in a small insignificant area at the edge of the Roman Empire/ Very small number of disciples: tortured to death at 33 Islam: ‘the Prophet’ Mohammed, Arab tribal merchant, trader, and warlord of 7 th Century AD At 40, began a prophetic mission. Took up arms for his tribe, ultimately winning military conquest of Arabian, Jewish, and Christian tribes, to become master of Arabia, united under Islamic rule and belief.

3 Mohammed & Islam, con’t Islām: vb infinitive ‘submission’ (from ‘whole’) Muslim: vb participle ‘one who submits [to God]’ Five Pillars of Islam 1. Creed: I testify that there is no god except God and I testify that Muhammad is a messenger of God.“ 2. Prayer: Five daily prayers, said facing Mecca. 3. Alms-giving 4. Fasting No food or drink, from dawn to dusk, during month of ‘Ramadan’ 5. Pilgrimage to Mecca Mandatory during a Muslim’s lifetime, to Mohammed’s birthplace. Mohammed & Islam, con’t

4 Mohammed’s message was effective for its: Simplicity: God is One Totality: God is All Force of absolute: the assurance and the power of severe and simple practices ensuring certain conquest of the world’s hardships. Predestination (Fate): Inshallah: “As God wills…” Culturally pervasive mindset among Arabs, and Islam by extension, of acceptance—even expectation—of hardship & suffering in Life.

5 Fate: philosophy + religion FATE : L. fatum, lit. ‘that which has been spoken’. Western Rationalism—David Hume ( ) considered by Chanu, p.29. Dialectic of engagement: Atheism: religion is an a posteriori construction a human construction to explain or justify or palliate certain facts of existence. Accepting that, t is argued that that Determinism is the necessary atheist position Determinism: all events—including thoughts—are purely physical and thus determined by previous physical events (‘cause-&-effect’) 1. There is no Free Will. 2. Everything I do is outside my control and can’t be changed 3. In effect, Life is determined for me in advance: one’s FATE.

6 Fate, con‘t Fate” then is how people try to understand and live with this cold proposition—i.e. Religion as a means of personalising— humanising—hard questions or realities. Karl Marx: “Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

7 Four Difficult Inter-Related Ideas FATE the sequence of events as they unfold in Time The order of the universe, advancing with its inevitable sequences CHANCE Events or consequences that happen in Time unexpected & unplanned & unintentionally: Aristotle; if we dig for potatoes and find hidden Gold, that is what is called chance. We may therefore define chance as an unexpected result from the coincidence of certain causes in matters where there was another purpose. Chance has causes: it is caused by the action of Fate. PREDESTINATION The perfect ordering of events in the Divine mind, outside of Time, in Eternity (Plato: ‘Time is a moving image of Eternity’) Like the artist conceives the work of art in mind perfectly, prior to the work of art’s creation as a series of actions in Time. FREE WILL The human capability of decision outside of Time, free of Fate or Chance

8 Historical Problems with these Four Ideas If Free Will exists, is it free of Providence? Are Fate and Chance independent powers? If Providence does not exist, is all not then Determinism? If Fate is all, is not decision illusion....or worse> If Providence exists, then is not Predestination necessary? The Divine mind predestines both good & bad

9 Brick Lane: Monica Ali

10 Heteroglossic Novel: Author’s biographical Situation Born 1967 in Dhaka Bangladesh. Lives in south London with her white husband, a management consultant, and their two children, aged four and two. Her mother, Joyce, met Hatem, a Bangladeshi student, at a dance in Manchester, in the north of England in the mid- Sixties. The couple moved to Dhaka & married, had two children, until the mother escaped back for England when Monica was three, during the Civil War (“Concert for Bangla Desh.”) Father was able to re-join them a year later Not fully happy in England— mother’s parents were not overjoyed with the inter-racial marriage, & Lancashire shared the 1970s drabness, depression & fruitlessness which eventually inspired the twin reactions of Thatcher & Punk. Parents always had a pining for returning to Dhaka Monica Ali’s mother has the racially-reverse experience of Nanzeen.

11 On Art and Dialogism Monica Ali interview: It is not that Nazneen is a poor Bangladeshi forced to live as an alien in east London, but that such alienation is a common human predicament. Ali herself remembers almost nothing of Bangladesh. The stories of village life are based on the tales told to her by her father. Both she and her brother Robin rebelliously refused to speak Bengali at home in Bolton. As a result, she has forgotten the language. “Perhaps, the answer is I can write about it because I do not truly belong. Growing up with an English mother and a Bengali father means never being an insider. Standing neither behind a closed door, nor in the thick of things, but rather in the shadow of the doorway, is a good place from which to observe. Good training, I feel, for life as a writer.”

12 Ali: “Economy of Outrage” Adoption of the language of economics matches the cultural focus in England—its recovery ( ) from the economic destruction of WWI & WWII. Economy = exchange of items of value. “Economy of Outrage” a culture where the currency is in moral outrage. immigration is the “material” in this “marketplace” all participants want to increase the “value” of the currency —i.e. increase the outrage over immigration pro- and con-

13 Ali’s political stance Ali was criticised after her book was published by 1. Bangladeshi immigrants in England 2. some left-wing white urban elites (Germaine Greer) for (essentially) not doing what Ali explicitly has refused to do (389) —i.e. become an ideological “flag-waver,” which, she says, is detrimental to 1.Art 2.Immigrant community for which special exemption is claimed.

14 Heteroglossic Novel With Brick Lane Monica Ali has created a dialogistic text par excellence. A variety of character voices representing alternative conceptions of and different responses to a complicated and important human situation. in this case, Muslim Immigration The central quotation from the book—”it’s more complicated than that”—can almost be seen as a motto for a dialogistic approach to literature. By extension, an attitude to Life at large: simple-minded polemical attitudes on any side are Absolutist and closed-minded

15 Heteroglossia on Race / Religion Narrational voice complicates easy divisions & assignations (324) Polyphony of voices among Muslim immigrants themselves: ch. 18 (344)--a dramatic triumph. Islam allegorised in “Mrs. Islam” – 370. Ultimately, the heteroglossia gives an excellent response to Plato’s demand of Art: ‘instruct by delighting By showing the range of ideas and consequences in dialogue—in all their complexity, “Art faithfully represents and uniquely stimulates understanding of human society as it truly is.”

16 Immigration Background Britain post-1945 has developed an extremely large-scale no-white population from the Commonwealth. Now extremely racially diverse. Despite that, white-on-non-white violence—especially at the level of riot—is relatively very rare. White-on-white riot-level violence has been predominant (football hooliganism): Loss of purpose for young white males with 1. decline of Empire 2. depreciation of martial values by society Some important episodes of non- white on non-white—or non-white on white—large-scale violence. Ali cites 2001 Oldham Riots (Manchester) See (in this case) Wikipedia Non-white immigration was the deliberate policy of both government and large industrial capitalism. The North post 1945: the home and engine of the Industrial revolution, and the economy was fundamentally large manufacturing — primarily industrial mills, those, primarily textile. World recession post-1945 for trade markets, but the government & industrialists tried to maintain production. Severe lack of male workers as a result of millions of deaths in WWI & WWII Thus, import cheap labour— massive pool of potential workers in Pakistan.

17 Immigration Background Ali also has to deal with fact of Islamic terrorism in Britain— including the mass-scale London Bombings of 2005 (55 people were killed in a series of bomb blasts in the heart of London, and several hundred were injured.) Not just simple racial or political binaries. More. Non-white immigration was the deliberate policy of both government and large industrial capitalism. The North post 1945: the home and engine of the Industrial revolution, and the economy was fundamentally large manufacturing—primarily industrial mills, those, primarily textile. World recession post-1945 for trade markets, but the government & industrialists tried to maintain production. Severe lack of male workers as a result of millions of deaths defending democracy against fascism. Thus, import cheap labour— massive pool of potential workers in Pakistan. This situation matches that in America today vis a vis Mexico: there, it is now the negative birth- rate of urban whites which fuels a market for cheap manual labour. The government & the capitalists all want the cheap labourers and actively promote immigration— grassroots are against it.

18 Immigrant Voices on assimilation Immigration alternatives. Demanding immigrants assimilate—learn to read and speak English, don’t wear burkhas, adopt English culture, etc.—is oppression? a current progressive political position the alternative in the text is ghettoisation—immigrants live in closed communities with limited opportunity for growth The novel does seem to have a (muted) pro-England conclusion—the opportunity for individual growth and expression. 339: “I will decide what to do. I will say what happens to me. I will be the one.” The word “one” here is highly significant  Allah is The One for Muslims  Muslim caliphate is ‘World under One law (Sharia Law)  One is affirmation of anti-marriage.  Hint of sense of immigrant assimilation? Voices present in favour of cultural adoption: Narrator-protagonist 50. Razia 359 Mrs. Azad 87-9 Chanu, as balance—308.

19 Brick Lane on Immigration Monica Ali’s novel gives voices to an immigrant community—the Bengali The white population has no interiority in the novel Ali’s text has a vigorous dialogue over immigration among the immigrant characters Women: Mrs. Islam, Razia, Mrs. Azad Men: Dr. Aziz Chanu is a dialogue within himself Children: Razia’s & Nanzeen’s children—intense adoption of British culture But children vulnerable to religious radicalisation—Karim (377) Nazneen is the POV for the reader—hears the dialogue and in the end acts.

20 Nazneen’s character development At one reading, Brick Lane is a ‘novel of ascent’ for Nazneen. a simple peasant girl with no power—no socially- consonant opportunity to exercise free-will—grows to independence and self-affirmation. Yet Monica Ali shows the complexity—the costs of this. Nazneen commits adultery—betrayal—against a faithful and kind man Becomes an indulgence for karim Passively causes a family separation: children from father.


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