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Wissenschaftlicher Aufsatz, 2015
2. Nazneen – The Perfect Image of Modern Muslim life in England?
3. Nazneen – a Modern Feminist?
4. The Phenomenon of Political Islam in Brick Lane
5. Conclusion: Brick Lane
Monica Ali's novel Brick Lane (2003) marked her literary breakthrough. Ali hereby followed the tradition of Salman Rushdie and Hanif Kureishi who had placed Islam back into the English speaking novel thus showing that the contemporary English novel is (still) heavily influenced by migrant writers coming from the former colonies. These writers share a double vision of England simply because they are insiders and outsiders at the same time. Their characters therefore are very convincing and they introduce Islam to the (Western) reader, a religion which for such a long time has been presented in a stereotyped and thus negative way.
Ali -like Rushdie and Kureshi - also uses London as the place of action and thus uses the literary concept of the 'postcolonial city'. Her description of the integration of a Muslim woman into British society also follows the notion of the 'condition of England novel' which confronts outer developments with human value.
Ali's main achievement, however, lies in her image of a Muslim woman who picks up the West as a chance. Ali here differs from male Muslim writers who too often confront the reader with the failure of their (male) characters.
It is exactly here where Ali's concept of a Muslim woman seems to have been a frontrunner for other Muslim writers to follow. Writers like Leila Abdoulela (Minaret 2005), Tahmima Anam (A Golden Age 2007); The Good Muslim 2011), Fadia Faquir (My Name is Salma 2007) followed Ali in their presentation oft he female thus showing a different kind of female Muslim identity.
For Theresia - you will always have your place in my heart!
Monica Ali’s novel Brick Lane gained an enormous popularity within a very short time.1 For the book Ali was awarded literary prizes such as the US Award of the National Book Critics’ Circle or the Booker Prize. The novel, however, was not only a commercial success, it also placed the author next to Kureishi and Rushdie. Ahmed/Morey/Yaqin (2012) on this: “Monica Ali’s Brick Lane (2003) is perhaps the most well-known work by a British Muslim author since Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia (1990).” (Ibid.: 165).
Apart from this positive reaction by many critics, Ali saw herself confronted with massive criticism of her own community that accused her of having painted a negative picture of Banghladeshis living in the UK. Thus, at the same time BL turned out to be the most controversial work of fiction to have been published since Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (1988). This criticism centered on accusations such as the allegedly negative portrayal of Muslims as uncultivated and old-fashioned or Ali’s presentation of a female character who uses the West to emancipate herself from traditional and male-dominated family structures. This progressive description of a Muslim woman irritated western readers alike, who simply did not know such a type of character who tries to be a modern and a Muslim woman at the same time.
Ali here uses the image of a modern Muslim woman as some kind of door opener for other Muslim women in order to reflect the traditional image of female presentation and representation in the western and the Muslim worlds alike. She hereby especially offends fundamentalists for whom words and books seem to be dangerous to the religious purity and the expanding position of the Qur’ān in Islam. Ali here is close to Rushdie and especially Kureishi whose character, Riaz, sees this danger to Islam: “You see, all fiction is, by its very nature, a form of lying - a perversion of truth.” (TBA: 182)
Thus, BL on the whole can be seen as a continuation of Rushdie’s SV and Kureishi’s TBA, because it functions as a challenge for the reality of Muslim life in the West. With her description of Muslim reality in the West, Ali puts BL in the context of the specific reality of post-9/11 Britain. The topics she discusses are also connected with her predecessors. They range from Muslim immigration to Great Britain, Fundamentalism, the description of Muslim life in London, otherness and gender role descriptions to the question of identity. Ali, however, must be regarded as belonging to the second generation of Muslim writers, because she enhances the problems Rushdie and Kureishi are concerned about. She (alongside Nadeem Aslam, Tahmima Anan, Fadia Faqir or Zahid Hussain) stresses topics such as gender roles or concepts of alternative reality and links identity and identity formation with the suggestion of new models of belonging.
Ali’s novel is a description of the development of a young Muslim woman.2 She places this development in the Tower Hamlets, a part of London.3 The localization of most characters in a fairly small area is not only used to analyze their development in a more precise way, it also throws light on the common practice of immigration to Great Britain.4 At the age of 18, Nazneen comes to London for an arranged marriage with a man twice her age. Being a devout Muslim, she accepts this family decision as part of her fate. The motto of her early childhood, ‘How You Were Left To Your Fate,’ influences the biggest part of her traditional life as daughter, wife and mother of two daughters. The years in England, her personal change and the love affair with another man mark central steps on her way to find herself and they highlight the consequences and the scope of these changes.
BL includes many topics to talk about, and the most important ones will be listed shortly, because the main focus of this thesis lies on the question of Muslim identity and the function of Islam and Islamic fundamentalism. Yet all different approaches remain important, since they must not be looked upon individually, because they tend to influence each other. They are presented in a chronological order and are not considered to be complete:
- The novel is a piece of literary work that replaces the abstract topic migration with a realistic portrayal of a woman.
- Brick Lane is an insult of the Bengali community in London (Meyer, 2004-03-25).
- The novel stands for some desperate kind of distance of man in modern times5 (N.N., 2004-10-06).
- Brick Lane is a mirror of modern British migration policy (see Hussain 2005).
- Ali’s novel stands for emancipation in a multicultural neighbourhood (see Eckhardt 2009).
- The novel deals with race, the sense of belonging to a specific class and gender roles. It is thus a coverage of the social background within the London world of immigration (see Widmann 2009).
- It gives the Western reader an insight into the Islamic world, which consists in many different strata of which militant Islam is one element (see Wright 2009).
- Ali, like Nadeem Aslam in Maps for Lovers (2004), describes the confrontation between Islam and modernity6 (see Ziebertz 2010).
There is still one element that can directly or indirectly be found in all different approaches to understand BL. Ali herself places a female character at the centre of the narration and thus automatically touches on matters of emancipation.7 A closer analysis of the relationship between Islam and female emancipation seems impossible at first sight. Yet a discourse on both matters is necessary in order to critically reflect the mythical level included in both terms. If Islam plainly includes the option to ignore injustice and suppression, and if feminism means to put the female at the centre, then both terms do not find themselves in opposition any more. Modern positions of feminism, however, have to be seen in connection with the authoritative pillars of Islam, i.e. the Qur'ān and the Hadith, as well as the laws emerging from both.
Contemporary Islam, like fundamental movements, also disposes of grass roots movements, which foster emancipation processes. Woman’s role is newly defined, and she can publicly demand the rights that the Qur’ān offers her, which still have been restricted by men or which they have simply given up. The main intention of these women is to teach other women the Qur’ān in a more open way, a step that can be found with other female Muslim writers, such as Leila Abdoulela, in her novel Minaret (2005: 744), as well. Another group consists of reformers who differentiate between the traditional texts with their (anti-female) interpretation and who demand a new (and more female-oriented) interpretation of the Qur’ān. Ali places her main character between these two positions of female emancipation but she stresses a different way (Craig, 2003-12-07). If one follows the development of the novel, one first has to analyze Nazneen’s childhood, because it exercises an enormous influence on the main protagonist. Nazneen’s early years are determined by Islam, and the female protagonist of BL links it with the term destiny (Kismet; BL: 14). The story ‘How You Were Left To Your Fate’ (BL: 15), be-comes the religious motto of her life, and following it, she enters into an arranged marriage with a man who could be her father (BL: 17)8. She has to follow him to England and says that she is happy about her new situation (BL: 45). The only security and strength she gets is the Qur’ān, and her most favourite sura stresses this positive feeling (BL: 57)9.
The first years in England are marked by a private and social isolation. The reasons can be seen in her husband’s reaction to make her stay at home, her traditional role as a woman and mother and the cultural differences between her (old) Bangladeshi and her (new) British background. All contact to the outer world is organized by her husband. Nazneen, nev-ertheless, is happy with her life that is organized around housework and bringing up her children (BL: 40; 41). The basis for this positive attitude is her religion (BL: 41; 70; 130; 254). Islam gives her strength, orientation, comfort and an ethnic background. The only change in her life consists in the letters to her sister and watching (British) TV.10 Nazneen here represents a type of immigrant woman that can be found all over the world, especially, however, in Western countries.
Her husband, Chanu, supports this isolation with the help of his male Muslim traditional thinking and a seemingly intellectual feeling of superiority (BL: 45).11 During her first years in England, Islam remains her only moral support, and reading the Qur’ān reflects her longing for and her knowledge of a better future (BL: 57). This feeling culminates in a sense of social isolation (BL: 58), which is shown in her letters to Hasina, her sister back home.12 It is also her sister who helps her to manage this phase of her life. Slowly but steadily Nazneen begins to reflect her traditional role as a wife and mother, but her first attempts to change it fail, because her husband is not willing to allow changes in his wife. He advises her to stay in her traditional role (BL: 77) and characterizes her present status quo quite well with a quote from Shakespeare (BL: 92).
Nazneen, however, starts her emancipation process, leaving behind her traditional family position and the role as a female Muslim immigrant. She carefully joins another group of Muslim women and starts to see things differently (BL: 102–105). This also includes a critical analysis of Islam. A major step in her emancipation process is her participation in a more male-oriented group where she joins discussions on politics (BL: 113–114; 123–127). She is hereby supported by her friend Razia. Although being a widow, Razia is able to manage her life alone. The negative development of her sister’s life back home in Bangladesh also helps Nazneen carry out a critical analysis of her former life. Hasina’s negative personal and social situation destroys the alternative of a return home, because Nazneen knows by instinct that her life in the West will be definitely better, even without a male partner. While her position is shown in a positive light, Ali portrays Chanu’s negative development as some sort of social decline. Chanu is dismissed as a clerk and he tries to start different jobs, yet fails, mainly because he does not face reality and is still too much involved in (his) male Muslim structures. These two options of Muslim immigration are symbolized by the fact that Chanu loses his position as a ‘middleman’ (the bridge between the Muslim world and the West) and has to make way for Karim, the young man Nazneen choses to be her lover. Karim is “a new middleman” (BL: 209)13. Nazneen is fascinated by this other man, who is young, attractive, religiously involved and more British than Bangladeshi (BL: 210–211). She is so attracted by him that she starts to betray her husband in her mind (BL: 219–220). This is a radical breaking away from her Muslim background, even if one considers the Qur’ān on this (see sura 103,2–3; 4,48, 39,53; 6,12).14 Ali pushes this moment of emancipation in another contrast between the two sisters. Nazneen starts to enjoy her emancipation process, while enjoying to have sex with her lover, Karim. This new experience makes her a woman, whereas Hasina is presented as a prostitute, which is tantamount to her social decline (BL: 222–228).15 Things are different with Nazneen, and she enjoys her newly gained freedom (BL 277–278). Her interest in political and religious activities around Karim can also be seen as important steps in her emancipation from conventional and traditional Islam, since she completely joins a man’s world (BL: 236–244). Here she discovers her full female strength. The idea to exchange the traditional sari for Western clothes must, therefore, be seen as a symbolic act of liberation (BL 277–278).16 The putting down of sari and veil finally starts the outer change, since Nazneen knows about the symbolic importance of the veil in Islam. It here is not only used as a means of protection of the female, it also stands for the differences between the sexes and the denial of women to lead an independent life. Nazneen fully enjoys her new life and her remorse diminishes. The distance to her own past increases as well, but she does not label her husband as a failure (BL: 328), even though his position as a male Muslim is constantly weakened (BL: 317; 347).
This development is suddenly interrupted by the terror attacks of 9/11. These attacks do not only violenty shake the world, they also influence her own life (BL: 366).17 Her husband finally wants to leave England, he tries to escape from his personal failure. Karim wants to stay in England to fight for Islam there. Nazneen, however, knows by instinct that he will fail as well, because he cannot and does not want to adapt to the West. His offer to marry her would, therefore, stand for another form of male control or a return to her traditional life as a Muslim woman.
The Qur’ān does not offer her help any more (BL: 406), and she finally realizes that she has to dismiss both men in order to start a new life with her children. Men for her are too much occupied with themselves and not able to manage life in the West. The discussion with Mrs. Islam, a money lender, shows that Nazneen is finally able to manage her life by herself, since she can oppose any form of oppression, be it male or female (BL: 437; 446).
At the end of the novel, Nazneen has finally reached the destination of her personal voyage. She has developed from a traditional, devout and strictly religious Muslim woman to a modern type of immigrant who is able to look after herself. She is able to master her life without any man, because she knows and accepts the strong and the weak parts of her personality. She does not completely move away from Islam, yet knows that she can only live this kind of life in the West. At the end of the novel, Nazneen is presented as a modern Muslim woman on her way to be accepted socially, culturally and politically. She has worked for the chance to participate in Great Britain without giving up her Muslim identity. She lives and practices bi-culturalism as a positive way of life. The result is the construction of an individual polyphonic concept of identity and a syncretic realization of Bhabha’s idea of a ‘third space,’ which seems necessary for orientation and the creation of meaning in a modern world (see Deny 2009).18 Ali hereby depicts her main character in a way that seems typical of many Muslim migrants in Great Britain. Nazneen’s emancipation is possible, because she can move away from an Islam based on local cultures and moulded into the culture and geography of the homelands to an international Islam of Muslims from many different countries and cultures. Within these differences, she develops a pluralistic understanding of a persisting identity, which enables her to emancipate herself. Her personal migration, her diasporic situation and her minority status as a Muslim woman abroad cannot stop her from finding her own way.
BL hereby dismantles the negative stereotypes of Islam and Muslim women, and how they may negatively affect women’s attempts to challenge patriarchal gender roles (see Moghissi/Ghorasi 2010). Yet it has to be pointed out one more time that this literary development of a Muslim character can only be realistically located in a Western setting. There the importance of the individual’s conscience is accepted as a religious cornerstone. The reader is finally confronted with a character that has developed from a devout female Muslim to a modern secular woman. Nazneen’s life is shown as an attempt to balance traditional faith with modern times. BL can thus be taken as a story of religious emancipation, because the main character breaks up the close connection between religion, morality, culture and politics, which is so typical for Islam. Her emancipation process starts by finally putting down the veil (BL: 277), continues with the knowledge of a strong desire to lead a different life (BL: 299) and culminates in the relinquishment of old values (BL: 364). The description of Nazneen and her emancipation efforts show that the underlying theme of BL is the concern whether our lives are pre-destined or dictated by our own agency. Ali shows a Muslim woman who will define her own destiny rather than accept her fate, which consists in the social constraints placed on her by others.
Ali’s main character at the end of the novel has become the prototype of a modern immigrant who is able to leave archaic and patriarchal structures behind, because it is, simply speaking, his or her right:
The interaction of ethnic minority individuals with states and different value systems, whether religion or culture, is therefore never exclusively determined by state agenda or majority religions and cultures. Law everywhere needs to be negotiated. Every individual has not only the right, but rather a human obligation, to make sense of socio-legal normative pluralism to construct his or her way of life. (Menski 2008: 53)
Nazneen is the representative of an Islam that can be found in Tunesia, Turkey or western countries and she simply enjoys this open and dynamic part of her religion (BL: 491).19 The energy she needs for her emancipation is embedded in a female attitude, her ability to love and a progressive self-confident exploration of Islam.
Nazneen’s change from a shy and reserved Muslim immigrant to a modern woman cannot be separated from her personal development. Ali presents her main character as a woman who is sympathetic and loveable. The fact that Nazneen as a Muslim woman completes this change under a religion that is still male-oriented is astonishing, because many Muslim women experience their religion as a system of frustration, as far as love is concerned.
Nazneen herself is permanently involved in love constellations with different people. This shows her enormous power to love and to be loved. The relationships to her father, her sister, her husband and lover (temporarily at least) and, above all, to her daughters clearly prove this. Nazneen, like her sister Hasina, shows love as part of her social role, being a woman and as a social element (BL: 15; 45; 47; 77; 322). The respect for the male side sometimes looks exaggerated but is linked to an enormous amount of sensitivity (BL: 36), which is one basis for the ability to love.This is no contradiction, because the result is some sort of mental mobility that helps her during her first years in England and that supports her with moments of happiness, the ability to look forward and her strong energy (BL: 40–41; 44; 94).20 Taken together, it becomes obvious that Ali slowly but steadily depicts an emotionally and rationally strong character. This mix is best shown in the relationship with Karim, because it has different phases and symbolises a radical break with her former life. After they have noticed their sympathy for one another (BL: 209; 210ff), both are stunned by an enormous mutual sexual attraction (BL: 220). They start to live their feelings, although they partly mistake love as sex. The fixation on sex is sharpened by the frameworks they find each other in, here wife and mother, there single man, here a mature woman, there a young man still trying to find his way in life. Apart from conventions and the moral expectations of Islam, this relationship is thrown back on a sexual level. The novel does not answer the question if Nazneen is a sexually frustrated woman, it seems to stress a critical reflection on the male Muslim world, because both male options are shown as weak characters. Although Nazneen seems to enjoy her new sex life with Karim, she does so without wanting to have a feedback, because she hereby seems to develop a positive egoism, which is typical of feminism in that women do not want to please men.21
1 In the following, Brick Lane will be abbreviated to BL. The publication of the book in 2003 was accompanied by an extreme criticism by Bangladeshis and in particular by the Sylheti Community, which accused Ali of offending her own community. The basis of this criticism were discussions on topics such as ethnicity, gender and class. The criticism on top was not an individual one; it was official, because it came from the mouthpiece of this group, The Greater Sylhet Welfare and Development Council. Right from the beginning, Ali openly rejected all accusations and stressed the advantages of a writer being able to live in two worlds: “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.’” (Ali, 2003-06-17) Schabert (2006) transfers this discourse on feminist ideas, yet uses Ali’s principle to observe: “In der Literatur der Frauen wie in der der Immigranten ist von vornherein eine doppelte Perspektive angelegt. Der Blick von der Peripherie ihrer Minderheitenposition aus wird überlagert durch die Teilhabe an der literarischen Kultur des Zentrums” (ibid.: 402).
2 BL is said to be a Bildungsroman, because it is concerned with the description of the personal I, its true character and the presentation of its development (Walkowitz 2006: 532). For a criticism of this type of novel, see Cuevas (2008).
3 Ali, like most migrant authors, uses London as the place of action. Here she focuses again on a fairly small area, which has a long migrant tradition, since the Irish and the Jews settled there in the past. Ali thus succeeds in presenting the physical, emotional and symbolic center of the Bengali community. She thereby gives a realistic description of “Banglatown” (Ashworth et al. 2007: 146–147) as a place of ethnic variety. This focus on a small area has a twofold effect. It comes close to the Robinsonade and starts a discussion on the Bengali Muslim diaspora in London as well. Eckhard (2009) here stresses the overlapping of geological and periodic processes and the increasing complexity of religious and social differentiations. For a closer analysis of the catchphrase community see Pathak (2008) .
4 Ali chose the names of her main characters well, since they all have a symbolic meaning: Nazneen is the name of a wind that brings relief in great heat, it represents a fresh and cool wind. Chanu (the name of her husband) means noble lady, its root is female, too. Karim (Nazneen’s younger lover) is the short form of Ab del Karim and stands for creature of God or one of his characteristics. Hasina (her sister) means the beautiful. Sibi (one of her daughters) means the little one. Kismet means destiny. It is the Arabic word for the personal and unchangeable destiny every human beings has. The true believer accepts his fate, because it is God-given.
5 AIi says about this phenomenon: “[...] such alienation is a common human predicament” (quoted according to Appleyard, The Sunday Times, 2007-11-18).
6 This struggle between Islam and modern times describes other well-known literary topics that can be found in BL such as the leaving behind of territorial and ethnic barriers, which have to be seen in the light of colonialisation (see Said 1978; Watt 1988; Hardt/Negri 2004).
7 BL, in connection with questions of emancipation and identity formation, can also be viewed from the perspective of narration and gender studies, since many of these aspects seem to be included there (Kauer 2003). For her, the novels of the 20th and 21st centuries are characterized by some sort of open relationship between ‘narration’ and ‘gender,’ which is marked by (androgynous, hybrid or sexually clearly defined narrators who question any form of category; ibid.: 216–217) . AIi here seems to take up this idea, since identity matters in her main character must generally be regarded as radical. Clover and Kaplan (2009) focus on inner dynamics in identity matters, and in respect to gender matters and traditional role playing they speak of a “chameleon-like category, a name for a constantly changing phenomenon that can sometimes be more and also sometimes rather less than identity” (ibid.: 182). Identity is hereby understood – and this holds true for Ali’s main character as well – as some sort of “complex act of self-creation” (ibid.: 184) that is determined by a large list of socio-economic, technological, cultural and religious frameworks.
8 Ali links Nazneen’s immigration to England with a common practice of Islam, arranged marriages, a problem that is constantly mentioned in the novel. Ali criticises this type of marriage and regards it as some sort of control mechanism. The fear of parents that their children, belonging to the second or third generations of immigrants, might loose their cultural and religious roots is also included. Ali here also touches on other problems modern Islam has to face. Other important topics are the questions of carrying the veil or burka or the option of divorce in Islam. The problem with these matters consists in the fact that Islamic law is common practice with the worldwide ummah. It is, therefore, not part of British Common Law although it is exercised in Britain (Menski 2008: 49; 61). Shah, too, (2005) considers this as a problem, yet looks at it from a more positive angle: “We can see that the official legal sphere in Britain provides an increasing space for religion, and this is particularly connected with Muslim struggles for recognition within the context of official multiculturalism.” (Ibid.: 79).
9 It is interesting to note the fact that her prayers are often described as some kind of imaginary meta discussion, which seems to follow the stereotyped behaviour of Muslim women abroad. ”What remains central, or indeed may be enhanced, following migration is the key role women play in reproducing religious practice – particularly by way of undertaking domestic religious practice.” (Vertovec 2009: 139)
10 It is absolutely correct to accept religious identity as the most important element for people living abroad in isolated areas. In this respect, the renaissance of Islam can also be associated with the image of modern man being a victim of secularism, which fosters man’s isolation.
11 With the help of Chanu, Ali succeeds to give a precise description of failed immigration to Britain. Chanu is frustrated and unable to lead a life abroad, and he displays his failure in his tendency to control his wife and children. He looses himself in endless monologues about his life and the dreams of a life he can never reach. He simply ignores his failure as a first-generation immigrant who sticks too much to his prejudices against the West, because he is unable to lead a life there (BL: 34). It is interesting to note that Ali changes typical male and female behaviour because Nazneen becomes rational, and her seemingly rational man becomes emotional.
12 Ali hereby uses a classical element of the traditional English novel to describe and analyze the close relationship between the two sisters. The writing of letters is deeply rooted in English literature, especially of the 18th and 19th centuries. For a closer analysis, see Sage (1992) and Hönisch (2007). It is, above all, Hönisch (2007) who does not only mention this long tradition in English literature but also stresses the classical function of writing letter, which consists in writing from the first-person perspective. Nünning and Nünning (2004) also explicitly stress the female aspect of letter writing and refer to the novel of letters, which has to be looked upon as an expression of a female and middle-class background (ibid.: 152–154; 198). In BL, they must be seen as a tool for characterization.
13 The affair with Karim can be looked upon as a challenge of common expectations (see Rennefanz, 2004-03-18), and it is an example for a new trend among many (female) Muslim writers also to portray male-female love as possible but risky.
14 Karim embodies the militant young Muslim of the second and third generations of immigrants. He fights against social discrimination and isolation and thus becomes open for radical ideas.
15 The literary presentation of Hasina as the female counterpart to Nazneen shows that Ali considers the classical role of woman in Islam to be a social and not a religious matter, because Islam is still based on patriarchal structures. Hasina, therefore, must be seen as a tragic figure, because she remains stuck in a male world. Yet the talk is about a structural element of present Muslim writing, which shows female friendship as staunchly advocated through pairing; also see The Map of Love (1999), Maps for Lost Lovers (2004), Mezzaterra: Fragments from the Common Ground (2004), Minaret (2005), A Golden Age (2007, My Name is Salma (2007)).
16 The clothing of female immigrants has a negative symbolic meaning. It must be understood as some sort of control that men exercise on their wifes, daughters or sisters. It also disposes of a political character and protects. Nazneen’s putting down the veil and the shaving of her legs represent a symbolic departure from Chanu and Karim. Both are unable to see the symbolic meaning of this step in the sense of female emancipation.
17 Ali on purpose puts this personal decision to the events around 9/11 and Nazneen’s personal emancipation from Chanu and Karim because, from now on she “is able to move beyond racial or religious prerogatives” (Bradford 2007: 211).
18 British Muslim emancipation is closely connected with identity matters. Ali presents this identity formation as something that can be located in a mental and physical ‘third space,’ which maintains the possibility of religious devotion within a secularized Britain.
19 This kind of Islam is best characterised by the notion of the ‘Euro–Islam’ (Tibi 1994; 1998). What is understood by this is exactly what Ali shows in her main character, namely an openness for pluralism, tolerance, secularism, a favour for democracy and individual rights (Kuschel 2008: 182–183). Ali also propagates another element of this notion of Islam, while stressing and showing the necessity of Muslims to integrate into Western societies in order to actively participate in the West (Lau, 2004-09-02). In this connection, BL speaks for the possibilitiy of a multicultural Britain, even in the face of a South Asian patriarchy or a British 9/11, Islamphobia, religious fundamentalism or a combination of these pressures. It thus makes the reader believe that the world Ali describes does exist within politically powerful results.
20 It yet has to be pointed out that Ali here describes Chanu as a positive (but weak) character, because he never oppresses his wife, he also seems to respect her in a way, because he does not control her, perhaps being convinced that his wife would never dare to break out.
21 This, nevertheless, must be taken as an indirect criticism of her former sex life as Chanu’s wife.
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