Category Archives: Islam

What’s Wrong with White Girl?

I’ve been recently following the White Season on the BBC, designed to examine the white working class Britain. There has been much criticism of the program content on the White Season, especially from Sarah Mukherjee, environment correspondent for the beeb, who is herself British-Asian and grew up in a all white council estate. Mukherjee stated in Ariel, the in-house magazine of the beeb, that “…listening to the patronising conversations in some newsrooms you’d think white, working-class Britain is one step away from anarchy, drinking themselves senseless and pausing only to draw benefits and beat up a few Asian and black people.”

Sunny Hundal wrote in the Guardian, Comments is Free (CiF) and takes issue with the fact that the term “working class” is not only a white matter, but that the series woefully neglects Asian and Black working class groups. Hundal also mentions that:

The White season is a tokenistic effort after which the middle class commissioners, pleased that they’ve done their bit for the proles, will go back to their usual habits, as they do with ethnic minorities. Except, there the lives of working class minorities are ignored while shiny happy middle class Asians making music or becoming successful entrepreneurs are lapped up.

But even worse is the patronising attitude that underlies it all. Here, I can’t really do better than quote Justin McKeating: “Going by the website, the season reduces working class people to exhibits in a zoo, to reality television show freaks, to anthropological curiosities in National Geographic. Here’s some knobbly-faced salts of the earth in a Bradford working men’s club. Here’s every little-brained, little Englanders’ worst nightmare, a white girl in a hijab.” It’s spot on.

I have to agree that the White Season on the beeb has done little to represent the complete working class environment in today’s Britain. Which brings me to White Girl (you only have 5 days to view on on iPlayer), a drama written by Abi Morgan in which Leah, an 11 year old white working class girl relocates to a Muslim neighborhood in Bradford. Leah’s parents are both portrayed in the drama in the stereotypical view associated with the white working class chav— as being “brutish, racist, alcoholic, and benefit scum.” Well, Morgan didn’t veer too off from the present, equally racist view of the white, working class. Because Leah’s parents are so dysfunction in every sense of the word, she becomes interested in Islam. And, you might ask, how is Islam viewed in White Girl? Muslims are portrayed in the other stereotypical image: as being peaceful and benevolent. In fact, it seems that the drama is expressly stating that for the white working class to achieve success it needs to become Muslim. The one dimensional image of both white working class and Muslims in Bradford does an incredible disservice to both groups.

I had a difficult and uncomfortable time watching the rest of White Girl, because it presented a cookie-cutter view to very complex socio-economic issues with the white and working class in Britain. Furthermore, the simplistic notions that Islam will save the day and help rehabilitate the white working class is just patronising smugness on the part of the middle class beeb commissioners. I’m a Muslim and I found it distasteful that Islam was being elevated and being placed on a pedestal (no religion or cultural tradition should be priviledged as the better path over another)- and that specifically divorce the “Muslim” way was presented in such an easy manner, almost like snapping your fingers and va la, it is done! If this is truly the case, then most Muslim women wouldn’t find divorce such a hellish experience. This romananticized version of Islam shown in White Girl versus the often violent and criminal version protrayed on t.v. and film again only confines Muslims to the stereotypical views often presented today.  Yes, Ms. Morgan– Muslims can be racist too, just like Jewish people can be racist, Sikh, etc.– working class white people aren’t the only racists in the world. 

To conclude, the White Season has little to do with exploring the dimensions of being white and/or working class. The BBC has again perpetuated the common stereotypes regarding class, race, and religion. The neighborhood that I live in is working class and very mixed in terms of race and religion. From my perspective working class people whether White, Asian, or Black get along and are far more diversified than those in the middle class- and despite being from the U.S., I have noticed that middle class folks can be highly racist, abet in a indirect manner. The White Season shows us more about bigotry and class bullying in the beeb than about the current state of the white and/or working class in Britain.




Filed under BBC, Class, cultural policy, identity, Islam, racism

Lecture on ‘Stereotypes and Strangers: Muslims in Film and Television Drama since 9/11’

23 October 2007, 5.30pm, Room NG 15, Senate House, University of London

Dr. Peter Morey 

‘Stereotypes and Strangers: Muslims in Film and Television Drama since 9/11’

Seminar ‘Inter-University Postcolonial Studies’, organised by the Institute for English Studies, University of London

Dr. Peter Morey is Reader in English at the University of East London. He is author of ‘Fictions of India: Narrative and Power’ (Edinburg UP, 2000), ‘Rohinton Mistry’ (Manchester UP Contemporary World Writer’s Series, 2004), and co-editor of ‘Alternative Indias: Writing, Nation and Communalism’ (Rodopi, 2006). He has published widely in the fields of colonial and postcolonial literature, and is currently working on a new monograph, entitled ‘Framing Muslims: Stereotyping and Representation from 9/11 to 7/7’, co-authored with Amina Yaqin, to be published by Harvard University Press.

The autumn 2007 seminar series of the Inter-University Postcolonial Studies is dedicated to the topic of Postcolonial/Muslim Cultures and Representation.  Find the full programme on their website:

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Filed under arts, Islam, Lecture, literature, research

Europe and its Established & Emerging Immigrant Communities:

10 and 11 November 2007, De Montfort University, Leicester

This conference will focus on Europe and will draw on perspectives beyond Europe in an attempt to discuss, analyse and critique European policy response to post World War 11 established and emerging immigrant communities as well as share good practice in the areas of health, security, social cohesion and education amongst other things.

Speakers include:

-Doudou Diene United Nations Special Rapporteur in Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, TBC

-Karen Chouhan 1990 Trust/JRCT “Visionary”

-Prof Gus John Institute of Education

-Tariq Ramadan TBC

-Halifa Sallah People’s Centre for Social Science Research Civic Awareness and Community Initiative, Gambia

-Anastasia Crickley European Monitoring Centre on racism and Xenophobia

-Doug Nicholls Community and Youth Workers Union CYWU

-Ted Cantle Improvement and Development Agency for local government (IDeA)

-Prof Chris Gaine University of Chichester

Arun Kundnani Institute of Race Relations

-Mark RD Johnson Mary Seacole Centre, De Montfort University

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Filed under activism, conference, cultural policy, Islam

Literary Representations of “British Muslims”

Thursday 8 November 2007, Senate House, University of London, Malet St., London WC1E

Hosted by the Institute of English Studies in association with Goldsmith’s College, University of London, and Leeds Metropolitan University.

Deadline for handing in proposals was 30 July 2007.

In the current political climate, an increasingly complex debate is emerging about what it means to be “British Muslim”.  Yet criticism of the UK ‘s migrant writing still tends to subsume religious identity under such categories  as ethnicity, nationality, hybridity and “race”. In an effort to develop a more appropriate critical vocabulary, this colloquium will examine representations of Islam and specific Muslim communities in recent British  writing. It will explore the diversity of Islam, both as a religion and a civilization, as it is represented in a rich and often contestatory body of writing.

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Filed under conference, Islam, literature

The Blunders of Multiculturalism in Germany

by editor Sanaz Raji

Recently I read of a court decision regarding Nisha, a 26 year old Moroccan living in Germany. Nisha filed for an early divorce on the grounds that her husband was beating her. However, the court decision produced a shocking surprise– the female judge, following the logic of multiculturalism, said that Nisha (and other Muslim women residing with their Muslim spouses in Germany) should “expect” to be beaten, citing what I believe is a poor translation of the Qu’ran stating that a man has the right to “corporal punishment”. This absolute reading of Sura 4, verse 34, as allowed for Muslim women to be treated as Johannas Hari puts “reduced to third-class citizens stripped of core legal protections – because of the doctrine of multiculturalism, which says a society should be divided into separate cultures with different norms according to ethnic origin.” I’ve put an a link to his excellent article on this topic-  Continue reading

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Filed under Islam, op ed, women

Habits and Hijabs

by Alistair David Blair Cook

The 11th September 2001 brought scorn, suspicion and near segregation to Muslims the world over, where nation-states rallied around the flag against this “extremist” and “virulent” religion. However, little was really understood about it and there was not any interest in finding out. The period of blame was upon us with governments introducing oppressive laws on a whim, without debate and certainly without the consensus of the people they affected to counter these threats. We have seen the detention of ‘enemy combatants’ in Guantanamo bay and the much-discredited anti-terrorist laws in the UK, encapsulating the current oppressive mood of governments.

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Filed under Islam, vox populi