Brick Lane relocates as old squabbles rekindle

Film Four, the production company behind the adaptation of Monica Ali’s Brick Lane, have decided to shoot to remainder of the movie in a different location, after threats of violent disruption from a small group of the area’s Sylheti Bangladeshi residents.

Last week English PEN had a letter in the Guardian protesting the protests. It was signed by Lisa Appignanesi (Deputy president, English PEN), Hanif Kureishi, Anthony Lester QC, Salman Rushdie and Gillian Slovo. They pointed out that the Muslim protestors were in a minority, and urged action from the authorities in the face of the threats:

Though legitimate protest and expression of views is just fine, English PEN trusts that this time should there be any concerted physical attempt to stop the production – as in the case of the play Behzti in Birmingham – the police, with the full backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will stand squarely behind the film, its author and the right to free imaginative expression.

Then Germane Greer wrote a rather silly article in the Guardian which appeared to support the protests, and attacked Monica Ali on the grounds of not being Asian enough to write about the community in Brick Lane. Greer did not condone violence, but somehow concluded that the residents had the “moral right” to prevent filming. However, she did make one highly pertinent point:

There is only one remedy available if your reality is being recycled through a writer or a movie-maker, and that is to write your own novel or make your own film – and accept ostracism as your just desert.

It is not known what proportion of ring-leader Abdus Salique’s little band of censors are able to read and write.

Greer’s article rekindled an old feud between herself and Salman Rushdie (Greer shamefully refused to support him during the Satanic Verses affair), and Rushdie fired off another angry letter to the Guardian, branding her “philistine, sanctimonious and disgraceful”.

All in all, quite an entertaining week combining self-inflicted bad publicity for the Bangladeshi Muslim community, and good publicity for the upcoming movie.

When will they ever learn?

2 Responses to “Brick Lane relocates as old squabbles rekindle”

  1. Andrew Nixon says:

    There’s a good article on this over at the Beeb:

    Contains such gems as:

    You can write fiction, but you cannot use names that are reality.

    And this one from someone who admits to not even reading the book!

    If you’re going to write certain things then don’t upset people. That’s all we ask. It’s upsetting our elders and giving us a bad name

  2. Lionel says:

    Poor old bitter Greer … or shall I say Glenda Slagg? Her piece is a total display of bigotry and intolerance, without mentioning her very nice piece of fascism while analyzing Ali’s background to know in which side of “culture” (very silly, she talks about multiculturalism) she’s and of course, disqualify Ali’s to write fiction because she’s not “Bangladeshi enough”, I’m wondering if she is using any racial formula extracted of Himler’s or Goebbels books. Can you imagine the horror if somebody says “Greer is not aussie enough to talk about Australia?”. My goodness, the redaction in Farringdon Road will be really upset.

    As far that we know, ban things based on moral grounds is an act of fascism: Moral is an individual matter because fortunately each individual has their own moral values. There is not such a thing as “Moral rights” in a free society, “Moral rights” only have room in tyrannies.

    Brick Lane is a place in London, no doubt about it, but like any place can inspire to fiction, recycled or not, Ali’s book is fiction and hence cannot be censored.

    Greer exposition is a good indication of the times that we are living; she represents the past, when people passionately fought for their own ideals without thinking on the instruments that they were using. It doesn’t matter if there is a left or right, if there is feminism or racism to defend, even the best intentions and ideals can become damaging if we use the same weapons that in theory our ideals fight against it. In the same way that there is not “Good Cancer” or “Bad Cancer”, there is not “Bad Censorship” or “Good Censorship”, censorship is the cancer and must stop, and doesn’t matter if comes for a minority group or a group of religious lunatics, censorship is bad full stop.