Monica Ali “just fanning communal rivalry”

Being at work and too tired to blog in the evening, I missed the whole story of the opposition in Brick Lane to the filming of Monica Ali’s novel of the same name. The objectors are saying that the book stereotypes and insults the community; others say that the objectors are mostly men and that women might find that the book accurately reflects life in the community, and others say it’s a free speech issue. Well, there’s a letter in today’s Guardian from Iqbal Ahmed in Ilford suggesting what Monica Ali’s offence may really have been:

The majority of British Bangladeshis originate from the Sylhet division in Bangladesh. Monica Ali originates from Dhaka.

There has always been rivalry between Bangladeshis from the mainly rural and peripheral Sylhet and those hailing from the major metropolitan areas like Dhaka and Chittagong. Sylhetis are usually stereotyped as being uneducated and cliquish: for instance preferring their children to marry within the Sylheti community. They are not considered “proper” Bangladeshis by many non-Sylheti Bangladeshis. Sylhetis are fiercely protective of their own language, family-orientated community culture and conservative practice of Islam.

I strongly abhor threats of violence against any individual or group. Yet I find it ironic that Ali is being lauded in some quarters as an icon of liberal multicultural Britain when in fact she is fanning rivalries and stereotypes within the British Bangladeshi community.

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