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Monday, 31 July 2006
Brick Lane protesters hurt over 'lies'

From the BBC - the latest on the protests about the filming of the book by Monica Ali.

Some 120 members of the Bangladeshi community from London and beyond marched in protest against the forthcoming film adaptation of Monica Ali's novel, Brick Lane. The book is about a Bangladeshi woman sent to London for an arranged marriage.  But some local Bangladeshis claim the novel insults them specifically, by being named after the street in which they live and work. They say Ms Ali portrays Bangladeshis as uneducated and unsophisticated, and repeatedly mention a passage which they say has Bangladeshis coming over to England in the hold of a ship and with lice in their hair.

This community first complained vehemently when the novel was first released in 2003 to much critical acclaim. But the attempts of Ruby Films, makers of the forthcoming movie adaptation, to film exterior scenes in the street itself have re-opened wounds that have never really healed. The film-makers have since abandoned their plans and will now shoot the footage elsewhere. (Whenever crime films were filmed locally we never complained about how indigenous East Enders were portrayed - it was a good chance to earn a few bob as an extra and get an autograph or two)

A small group of mostly middle-aged Bangladeshis, all men save for two women, gathered in Brick Lane in the warm afternoon, holding a banner and hand-written posters. Assurances were given by local businessman and protest organiser Abdus Salique that the widely-reported plans to burn copies of the book were incorrect . . . Numbers began to swell, and everything seemed orderly enough until a young Asian man stepped forward to ask if anyone had actually read the book. . .He was swiftly stopped in his tracks by a hug from Dr Hasanat Husain, one of the organisers of the protest, and the incident quickly cooled down.  Dr Husain delivered a short speech.

Two protesters with posters"This hard-working community has been offended by lies, slander and cynicism. There should be a limit to what you can write or say.  "You can write fiction, but you cannot use names that are reality. The reality is Brick Lane."

It's upsetting our elders and giving us a bad name" Shochall admits to not having read the book, but says he has read "bits and pieces" of it while having other sections explained to him by others.

. . . Dan Simon, 28, of south-east London, who admitted he was shouting and remonstrating with the marchers. He was pulled to one side and given a bit of a talking-to by the policeman. Dan later said he was annoyed the film-makers were "thwarted" by the Bangladeshi community. "The film should be made . . .

It was quite noticeable that there were almost no women directly involved in the march. One of the two who did march was Salina Akhtar, 41, who lives not far from Brick Lane. She said she didn't know why women were not at the protest, but said the female members of the Bangladeshi community were upset by Ms Ali's novel. Muhammad Shahabuddin, 56, from Plaistow, London, said the lack of female representation was because "Muslim women are very conservative and they don't feel comfortable coming here. "If there was a protest just for the women then they would come."

However, when this suggestion was made to Dr Husain, he spoke of his "frustration" at "stereotyping" of the community. The reasons there are few women protesting about a book and a film which is centred around a woman's life, he said, is more mundane. "This event was organised at short notice and obviously our families have children. So who looks after them? My wife wanted to come and face this, but at the moment I have guests."

Passer-by Andrew Insley, 26, who lives in Tower Hamlets, watched the protest with interest. "All this is making me want to do is read the book and watch the film," he said.

I don't know Brick Lane anymore. My Great Aunt lived there and  I used to go there with my father.  In those days most of the shops were Jewish, I took no interest in Katz the famous string shop, but I loved the delis with the rollmop herrings and gherkins where Klezmer music was playing from a record player in the back room. We would buy some to take to my nan's for tea. And there is still a bagel bakery left.

The Sylhetis have actually lived there a long time.  The first were seamen landed from the docks who took jobs, tailoring was a favourite, so that they had money to send home.  I once noticed a thin man buying at least a dozen hideous pullovers from one of the secondhand clothes stalls.  I asked my Dad why he needed so many pullovers and why such hideous ones.  Dad explained that he would be sending them home to his family in East Pakistan (as it was then), that the family would be as poor, or probably poorer, than our family when he was a child, and like him they would  not care if the pullover was an ugly colour so long as it was warm, sound and clean.

I can understand a family wanting a better life for their children in another country.  The Hugenenots came,  then the Irish, then the Jews.  My heritage is mixed in with all those groups. There was Chinese, Indian, Italian and more. But there is one difference.

They all adapted to their adopted home. Unlike some.

Posted on 07/31/2006 3:32 AM by Esmerelda weatherwax
31 Jul 2006
Send an emailMary Jackson
I've read the book - it starts off well but goes off towards the end.

120 is more than protested the July 7 bombings.