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Writing British MuslimsReligion, class and multiculturalism$
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Ahmed Rehana

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780719087400

Published to Manchester Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7228/manchester/9780719087400.001.0001

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Anti-racism, liberalism and class in The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie affair

Anti-racism, liberalism and class in The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie affair

(p.64) 2 Anti-racism, liberalism and class in The Satanic Verses and the Rushdie affair
Writing British Muslims

Ahmed Rehana

Manchester University Press

This chapter provides a crucial context to the Britain-based controversy surrounding the publication of Salman Rushdie’s 1988 novel The Satanic Verses, establishing the importance of a dialectical understanding of race, class and religious affiliation and grounding the protests in their material conditions. It reads the novel alongside and against the dispute that it generated: an engagement with the social context illuminates the presence of ideological contradictions within the novel which in turn shed light on the complexities and contradictions of multicultural politics in 1980s Britain. Focusing primarily on Rushdie’s representations of the fictional area ‘Brickhall’ in London, the chapter argues that the oppositional anti-racism that underpins the representation of the largely Muslim community’s struggle against the racism of Thatcher’s Britain is in tension with the endorsement of secular individualism against religious communalism that pervades the novel. The chapter reveals the strategies by which the novel attempts to manage and resolve this tension which is embedded within it and which emerged in the form of protests and book-burnings soon after its publication.

Keywords:   Salman Rushdie, Rushdie affair, The Satanic Verses, freedom of expression, controversy, offence, anti-racism, multicultural politics, secular individualism, religious communalism

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