The east London borough of Tower Hamlets is up in arms again against Booker-nominated author Monica Ali and her novel Brick Lane. Now that a movie’s in the making, they’re really pissed.
According to a Guardian story, “a community action group in Tower Hamlets has launched a campaign to stop production” of the movie. “In an echo of the controversy which surrounded the initial publication of the book, set partly in the east London borough, the novel is accused of reinforcing ‘pro-racist, anti-social stereotypes’ and of containing ‘a most explicit, politically calculated violation of the human rights of the community.'”
Three years ago, community advocates came down hard on the book, saying that it “portrayed Bangladeshis living in the area as backward, uneducated and unsophisticated, and that this amounted to a ‘despicable insult.'”
Brick Lane Traders’ Association chair and sweetshop proprietor Abdus Salique is leading the charge, and has circulated a petition “to put pressure on the council to halt Ruby Films’ adaptation, already in production in a London studio, and calling on ‘all right-thinking people to join in preventing this attack on good social, ethical standard and idea [sic].'”
He says, “Nobody can come with a camera make a film about that book here. She [Ali] has imagined ideas about us in her head. She is not one of us, she has not lived with us, she knows nothing about us, but she has insulted us.” The fact that the book is a work of fiction makes no difference to Salique; he feels that the book isn’t, in fact, fiction and that Ali’s claims that it is are “lies.” Says Salique: “She wanted to be famous at the cost of a community.”
He then goes on to claim that community groups prevented Ali from snagging the Booker and that, if filming should go ahead in their neck of the woods, there could be trouble. “The community feels strongly about this. We are not going to let it happen … Young people are getting very involved with this campaign. They will blockade the area and guard our streets. Of course, they will not do anything unless we tell them to, but I warn you they are not as peaceful as me.”
Claudia Kalindjian, a spokesperson for Ruby Films, the company producing the film, says that they wouldn’t have gone ahead with the movie if they had thought the source material racist.
Read the Guardian story here