16/1030: Islamophobia discussed in Literature

Today, I had to think a little about what I wanted to write. I didn’t feel like continuing with notes, so I thought back about what motivates me to write this dissertation. What do I want to accomplish with this? For I am interested beyond the literary devices used in the texts and the way literature has changed in its writing over the years. I am also interested in the topics addressed by our literature. One of the more controversial topics is Islamophobia and terrorism, specifically home-grown terrorism.

Both Brick Lane and White Teeth, key books I’ll be exploring for my dissertation, feature characters born and raised in the UK, but who become involved in terrorist or Islamic fundamentalist groups in the UK. Islamophobia feature heavily in new English literature, though a growing Arabic community in Germany is prompting the topic in new German literature as well. Still, Germany, built on its jus sanguinis challenges the citizenship of its Islamic practicing migrants more “successfully” than the UK. Though I’m not sure if “successfully” is the right descriptor. Rather, people of Islamic faith are usually with Turkish or Arab heritage, and these people followed a different route to citizenship than many UK citizens who practice the faith, who benefited from British citizenship granted to former colonies. This is how some of the characters of White Teeth came to the UK and could start living and working there.

The issue is, that when people have a right to live somewhere, it doesn’t mean that the “natives” see it that way. As addressed in my post from Day 13, people tend to have a view of a nation as having a homogeneous representative race, ethnicity, or religion. The UK had racial tension in many of its communities when the population  people of color grew in these communities. A different kind of shift occurred after the rise of Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, most notably terrorist attacks 2001 in the US and 2005 attacks in the UK.  That’s not to say terrorism has not been an issue around the world for a long time (looking at the Wikipedia entries, Sri Lanka, for one, has done its share of suffering). However, attacks became a real threat in these regions, making the terror very real.

Of course, this fear plays over into profiling and judging people as capable of something, just because of their national or religious affiliation. Non-practicing Muslims all of a sudden become pushed into a potential role they otherwise did not see themselves remotely associated with. Much literature looks at communities and how characters interact within these communities. Plots thrive on conflict, so seeing how some characters run into judgment and prejudice from others within their community is featured heavily, but subtly in the novels.

Still, these novels are not written just for the victims of the prejudice, as consolation that there are people who understand them and their situations. These novels are written- and celebrated- as presenting the “new” Britain or [insert country here]. They try to show as many different voices as possible, the different streams- critical and sympathetic- of the way the social-make-up has “changed.”

Whether that last statement is true is something I need to explore further. I’ve lost my focus and if I continue, I’ll probably spout nonsense.


Disclaimer: this series is a collection of brainstorms and free-writes that are a part of my planning for actual text in my dissertation. Therefore, I am giving myself the liberty to make mistakes, make assumptions (call me out on offensive ones, though!), not tie up loose ends, and generally not make any sense. 

Copyright 2016 Dorothea Trotter: because these writings are planning for actual text in my dissertation, some of this will appear in my dissertation. I hold the right to the words in this post and require that interested parties ask for permission before copying the words or ideas too closely. Obviously, the date of posting is the date of copyright and I reserve the right to challenge suspected plagiarism in my future dissertation submission using these blogs as proof of originality


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