New Lonely Planet guide sheds light on Britain’s hidden Muslim heritage

LONDON: A new Lonely Planet guide to Britain features an entire chapter on the country’s little-known Islamic heritage, which dates back more than 1,200 years.

Published this month, ‘Experience Great Britain’ is part of the publisher’s ‘anti-guide’ range, supposedly because of the unique local insights they offer travellers.

The guide to Britain contains sections and essays entitled “Legacies of Empire”, “Bristol’s Black History”, “An Other London” and “Hidden Muslim Britain”, all of which seek to shed light on the marginalized cultures of nation and their stories.

Tharik Hussain, the Muslim author of “Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey to Muslim Europe”, which explores the continent’s indigenous Muslim cultures, contributed to the new travel guide.

“I think it’s wonderful to see mainstream guides like this finally doing everything they can to include such diverse experiences for visitors,” he said.

“So often writers like me are brought onto projects like this to tick a box and make it seem like there are various perspectives, but in fact, we’re often asked to write about the same things the writers cover. What’s different about that?

“To get truly diverse perspectives, editors need to select writers from different backgrounds, then be brave and empower writers to come back with what they find interesting, even if it goes against expectations. of the publisher.”

Hussain, who developed one of the UK’s first Muslim heritage trails, wrote the ‘Hidden Muslim Britain’ chapter, which focuses on Woking – home to the UK’s first purpose-built mosque, the Shah Jahan – Liverpool and Brighton, where some of the most visible Islamic legacies can be found.

These include Britain’s first Muslim cemetery – the final resting place of converted lords, ladies and Muslim royalty – and the Brighton Pavilion, where wounded Muslim soldiers (as well as Sikhs and Hindus) fought for Britain during the First World War were cared for.

The guide also talks about the cultural institutes created by the Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and black communities in London. (Supplied/Tharik Hussain)

“The guide also reveals where to visit spectacular ‘Oriental Halls’ inspired by famous Muslim palaces like the Alhambra in Spain and Topkapi in Turkey,” Hussain said.

“This is supported by an essay called Anglo Islam which reveals how Islam came to the island as early as the eighth century, when an Anglo-Saxon king called Offa minted a gold coin featuring part of the declaration of Muslim faith in Arabic.”

The essay also recounts how Britain’s first true Muslim community “was a group of converted white Victorians who worshiped in the country’s first mosque in Liverpool, founded by a lawyer called Henry William Quilliam, later Abdullah Quilliam”, said he added.

The empire section tells visitors where they can go to learn more about “the horrors of British imperial rule” and how to discover more positive post-colonial legacies like the magnificent Neasden Temple in northwest London, built by immigrants who moved to Britain after the collapse of the empire, says Hussain.

The guide also tells about cultural institutes set up by Turkish, Palestinian, Bangladeshi and black communities in London, such as the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, and offers alternatives to the usual tourist attractions, such as Muslim History Tours and the Open City . walking tours that explore London’s forgotten Chinese heritage.