‘Displaced’ Muslim Women in Monica Ali’s Brick Lane and Leila Aboulela’s Minaret

Sherine Fouad Mazloum


This paper seeks to explore the complex representation of Muslim women characters in two texts by two Muslim writers who live or have lived in Britain namely Monica Ali and Leila Aboulela. Since the two writers come from Asian and African/ Arab backgrounds, the delineation of their “Muslim” female characters allows for a more comprehensive view of the daunting experiences of migrant ‘ordinary’ women who find themselves triply displaced as women/ Oriental / Muslim. Both novels reflect the empowerment of the female characters Nazneen and Najwa who grapple with their migrant experience. This paper seeks to read the two novels as offering alternative forms of knowledge of Muslim women's ‘displaced’ experiences. It acknowledges that the two novels trace the processes of transformation of the female protagonists in a metropolitan context, but focuses on how this process entails several reflections on their experience as triply displaced. The paper relies on Spivak’s concept of displacement and uses its insights to reflect the case of Muslim women’s displacement. The paper refers to Talal Asad’s discussion of the idea of Islamic tradition to highlight its argument that Islam is part of the tradition that influences Muslims’ subjectivities whether they embrace the religion or not. Hence, to work out their displacements, both protagonists undergo a process of empowerment and agency during their journey of finding a place in the world.  


Spivak’s displacement, Muslim women, Leila Aboulela, Monica Ali, contemporary British fiction.  

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