By Claire Chambers
What did Britain seem like to the Muslims who visited and lived within the state in expanding numbers from the past due eighteenth century onwards? This publication is a literary heritage of representations of Muslims in Britain from the past due eighteenth century to the eve of Salman Rushdie's ebook of The Satanic Verses (1988).
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Extra resources for Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, 1780–1988
The Enlightenment was a fluid combination of events, people, institutions, and forms of knowledge, with more contradiction and diversity than unity. The broader trends that the discourse of this time exhibit, however, are the privileging of reason and experience, the rejection of religious authority in favour of a more materialist, liberal philosophy, and general optimism about the possibility of progress through education. In The Enlightenment Qur’an, Ziad Elmarsafy describes the vigorous exchanges that took place between the Muslim world and Enlightenment Europe in the long eighteenth century.
Perhaps his greatest criticism is reserved for British knowledge. Jagvinder Gill suggests in his fine thesis on South Asian travellers to Britain (2010) that Abu Taleb practises reverse Orientalism when he writes about the hostland. By this, Gill means that Orientalism’s power–knowledge dialectic and the way in which it stereotypes Indians ‘and its definitions of Indians have been to some extent reversed at social and cultural levels’ by these travel writers, but without this being ‘a symmetrical counter discursive response to the cultural hegemony of British Orientalism within India’ (2010: 22).
Anxieties about eating halal food, wearing modest clothing, and performing appropriate ablutions and rituals come up again and again in the early travel and life writing surveyed here. 1 This manuscript was first produced some time between 1780 and 1784. It was translated and abridged from the Persian into English by James Edward Alexander in 1827, and into the Bengali title Vilayet Nama by Abu Muhammad Habibullah in 1981 (Alexander, 1827; Habibullah, 1981; Haq, 2001: 13). I work here with Kaiser Haq’s The Wonders of Vilayet: Being the Memoir, Originally in Persian, of a Visit to France and Britain in 1765 (I’tesamuddin, 2001), an adept amalgamation and modernization of the two earlier translations.