The Muslim as a cultural category has come under increasing, most often hostile, scrutiny in Euro−America over the last four decades or so. As a result, the field of Muslim literary studies has emerged to shine a spotlight on the exciting body of literature by authors of Muslim heritage writing back to Islamophobic stereotypes. However, this academic oeuvre too often assumes that this literature is a contemporary, broadly post-9/11 phenomenon. In this important book, Claire Chambers takes a long view of depictions of Britain by writers from Muslim backgrounds. The book’s first half focuses on travel and life writing from the eighteenth to the mid twentieth centuries by authors such as Mirza Sheikh I’tesamuddin, Najaf Koolee Meerza, and Atiya Fyzee. In the second half, she trains her critical gaze on the long tradition of fictional representations, from Ahmad Fāris al-Shidyāq’s Leg Over Leg (1855) to Ahdaf Soueif’s Aisha (1983) and Abdulrazak Gurnah’s Pilgrims Way (1988). Chambers argues that the Rushdie affair has been more of a turning point on perceptions of and by Muslims in Britain than 9/11. Her next book in this two-part series, Muslim Representations of Britain, 1988−Present, will therefore start with discussion of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (1988) and move to examination of the long shadow this text has cast on subsequent Muslim literary representations.
Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, 1780−1988. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan (2015)