'Insulted' residents and traders threaten to halt filming of bestselling novel Brick Lane

FilmFour's adaptation of Monica Ali's bestselling novel Brick Lane has run into opposition from residents of the east London street. By Richard Lea and Paul Lewis.

Residents and traders in Brick Lane, east London, have threatened protests and street blockades to prevent filming of a screen adaptation of a book by bestselling novelist Monica Ali which they claim is "racist and insulting" toward the Bangladeshi community. The Booker- shortlisted novel, Brick Lane, tells the story of Nazneen, a Bangladeshi woman who is sent to London for an arranged marriage, but later cheats on her husband with a radical young Muslim.

Last night, after a series of public meetings about the film, community leaders vowed to do "anything it takes" to block filming, labelling the book "a violation of the human rights of the community". Similar accusations were made in 2003, when the book was published.

Abdus Salique, chair of Brick Lane Traders' Association, who is coordinating the campaign from his sweetshop, said he feared the book would enrage younger members of the community. "Young people are getting very involved with this campaign. We had more than 100 people attend yesterday's meeting. They are willing to 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. 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."

A spokeswoman for the production company filming the adaptation, Ruby Films, confirmed it had been contacted by members of the community unhappy that the film was being made. Filming has begun in-studio, and is due to move to Tower Hamlets next month.

"[The film-makers] certainly would not have embarked on a project which they thought was in any way racist," she said.

In a statement, Tower Hamlets council said that it would listen to residents' concerns about the film.

"She is definitely a good writer," said Mahmoud Rauf, chairman of the Brick Lane Business Association. "But she didn't use her skill to the benefit of the community. We will take this as far as it has to go."


Richard Lea and Paul Lewis

The GuardianTramp

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