Saturday, July 29, 2006

Hurling Bricks

I've not yet read "Brick Lane", Monica Ali's novel, but recently saw an interview with her. She is no doubt perplexed by the reaction of the Bangladeshi community of Brick Lane to its protests about filming there. On the one hand, one feels that its refreshing that at least one part of the world doesn't want to be in the movies, no matter what, but that idea soon palls. Ali is not an arriviste, but Bangladeshi, and, more importantly a writer who wants to write about contemporary Britain. Post 9/11 it seems that almost any artistic work that addresses our multicultural society comes under threat from some. It worries me. "Political correctness gone mad" is a neat Daily Mail term, but its about time that works of art are seen for what they are, given more protection than they currently get. The majority of contemporary writers hide in the past, or worse, in the middle classes, and one can only feel that will get worse. More informed comment on this from Baroque in Hackney. The most telling thing is, that like myself, she's a slight worry that we're not even supposed to be debating these things. Its not just Islam, its any religion now seems to be getting special protections. Many councils now have rules of conduct which state that your behaviour should respect not only people's race, gender and sexuality, but their religion. This would be fine, in itself, and like Baroque, I work with a wide range of community groups. What I also am, is secular, and believe we live in a secular society, and we're seeing more and more religious organisations/organisers (many of whom have problems with other people's gender and sexuality) wanting complicity in their own prejudices. I'm suddenly acutely aware that if you make any comments whatsoever about any religion, there's becoming a culture of suspicion. This, of course, does not just come from "multiculturalism", but with leaders both in the UK and America who are not afraid to use their own religion, and relationship with God, as justification and rhetoric - with policies being led by the religious interests or religious ideas (stem cell research in America, for instance, Religious Hatred bill here) - it creates a climate where, I have no doubt, should another fatwa be handed down on a living writer, they'd be very lucky to receive the grudging level of protection given to Rushdie. As Baroque pointed out, the voice that is silenced in all of this, is often female.


Elizabeth Baines said...

There is a great fear. I recently had a proposal for a TV drama turned down, I am pretty sure for this reason, though the reason stated was simply that my idea didn't 'fit the series mix'. What's worst of all is that people are too scared even to admit to the fear.

Ms Baroque said...

Fiction Bitch is right.

I've read Brick Lane. It's pretty anodyne stuff, but there is one place - or maybe there are two - where a character says something about a stereottypical prejudice against Sylhet.

Imagine Dickens having to face all this just because he mentioned particular roads in London or made, say, pickpockets appear unflatteringly!

Anyway, Ali is Bangladeshi, but I'm absolutely sure she's not surprised by this. I've just posted on this subject, which is rather close to me, and as Fiction Bitch presages in her comment, I'm a little scared now. But I already left the job. So I'm okay, right?


PS - Salman Rushdie's in the fray too, battling it out with Germaine Greer, who is of course taking the side of the "local community".

Elizabeth Baines said...

Yes, I've just posted on this too. It really is something we need to be exercised about.