Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, by Claire Chambers

By Claire Chambers

What did Britain appear like to the Muslims who visited and lived within the state in expanding numbers from the overdue eighteenth century onwards? This e-book is a literary heritage of representations of Muslims in Britain from the past due eighteenth century to the eve of Salman Rushdie's ebook of The Satanic Verses (1988).

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Additional info for Britain Through Muslim Eyes: Literary Representations, 1780–1988

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2: 41–2) Notwithstanding the disingenuous disclaimer at the beginning, Abu Taleb here makes a withering excoriation of Jones’s work. While the earlier traveller I’tesamuddin had been obliquely patronizing towards the Welsh linguist, Abu Taleb states outright that he finds it easier to teach Persian to a complete beginner than one who has studied Jones’s primer, because the book teaches such ‘bad pronunciation’ and ‘errors’ that he does not view it as a ‘work […] of real value’ (Vol. 2: 42). The Orientalist’s understanding of Persian, he intimates, is merely ‘academic’, because he had not yet been to India when he wrote the Grammar.

2 The first stage of I’tesamuddin’s journey ends with his arrival in Mauritius, where he meets and feels a sense of kinship with a sareng, or officer, and ‘seven other Moslem lascars’ from East Bengal and elsewhere in India who are celebrating Eid (36). I’tesamuddin also makes stops in Pegu, Malacca, the Maldives, Madagascar, Cape Town, and France before arriving in England. En route, he describes encounters with factual and fictitious beings, including cannibals, Muslim converts, slaves, mermaids, and flying fish.

It is true that Jones published Early Muslim Travel Accounts of Britain 37 his Persian Grammar in 1771 but did not to go to India until 1783 and never visited Iran. Viewing him through a more generous lens, he must have had an emotional commitment to India because he lived out the next 11 years until his death in Calcutta, the city in which he had earlier set up the Asiatic Society (Cannon, 1990: xiii–xix). Whether Jones was an impostor who managed to pull the wool over fellow Britons’ eyes about his linguistic prowess, his Persian was weaker than his Sanskrit, or Abu Taleb was envious because he never managed to establish his pet project of setting up a Persian-language academy in Britain, we cannot be sure.

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