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Protests force Brick Lane filming to relocate
31st July, 2006

The production company adapting Monica Ali's book Brick Lane for film has decided to avoid filming scenes on location due to threats of violence and blockades.

Yesterday around a hundred protestors peacefully marched through the street to register their anger at the film. They held placards with slogans such as "Monica's book is full of lies".

When a young Asian man, who declined to give his name, asked the protestors if they had actually read the book, they grew angry and a scuffle was averted by one of the organisers.

The protest was much smaller and different to promises made by Mr Abdus Salique last week. He told the Guardian newspaper last week: "[If] she has the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to burn books. We will do it to show our anger. We don't like Monica Ali."

In the end no books were burnt but there were plenty of threats. He had earlier said: "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."

A spokesman for Film Four, which is partly funding the films, said a change of location was now being planned. "As we would with any film, we have taken advice from police and have decided to film the remaining Brick Lane scenes at other locations."

Many say the spectre of young Bangladeshi lads turning to violence on the streets over a fictional book has caused more harm to their image than the book would have.

Writing in the Sunday Times, Christina Odone said: "The dismal stereotype they have confirmed is that in Muslim eyes censorship is acceptable, criticism not; that young Muslim men are hotheads ready to resort to violence in any disagreement. Itís a collective character assassination far more damaging than Ms Aliís writing."

Last week a group of writers including Hari Kunzru, Hanif Kureishi and Salman Rushdie wrote a letter to the Guardian, saying: "Though legitimate protest and expression of views is just fine, English PEN trusts that this time should there be any concerted physical attempt to stop the production - as in the case of the play Behzti in Birmingham - the police, with the full backing of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, will stand squarely behind the film, its author and the right to free imaginative expression."

They also quoted an AIM magazine article from last week in which several Bangladeshi residents from Brick Lane said they were not opposed to the filming and wanted to see it to go ahead.

The writer herself has not yet commented on the controversy.

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