UK's first Muslim literature and culture festival launches

UK's first Muslim literature and culture festival launches

Novelists Elif Shafak and Kamila Shamsie are set to headline the UK’s first dedicated festival of Muslim culture, literature and ideas, at the British Library in April.

The inaugural festival, MFest, will bring together Muslims and non-Muslims to celebrate the religion’s cultures, and explore contemporary Muslim thought through its heritage, politics, and communities. Set to run annually, it intends to provide a platform for emerging and established writers, performers and artists, as well as “encouraging challenging conversations” and presenting Muslim responses to contemporary issues.

The festival will run from 27th to 29th April at the British Library in central London, featuring almost 30 events including poetry readings, workshops, performances, discussions and after-parties.

Writer and commentator Shafak will kick off the two-day festival with a keynote speech, while Home Fire author Shamsie will be in conversation with BBC news journalist Razia Iqbal.

Mostly Lit will conduct a live version of its books podcast, while a stand-up comedy night will be presented by contributors to Don’t Panic, I’m Islamic (Saqi Books). Other events include a magazine-making workshop with Muslim artists’ organisation, the Khidr Collective, and a discussion on the consequences of the Grenfell fire for activist movements, featuring community organiser Pilgrim Tucker in discussion with Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad and the grime artist Saskilla. 

There will be discussion on evolving strands of feminism within Islam, led by journalist Remona Aly, while another session sees independent publishers explore the dynamics of publishing Muslim authors, chaired by BAME in Publishing co-founder Sarah Shaffi, formerly of The Bookseller.

The event is sponsored by the Aziz Foundation, an independent grant-making foundation supporting the most disadvantaged communities in Britain, and artificial intelligence company, DeepMind.

Tufyal Choudhury, director of MFest and a human rights academic, said: “We are delighted to launch a festival of books and ideas that recognises the diversity, differences and dynamics of Muslim cultures and lives. MFest challenges a fundamental feature of Islamophobia, which sees Islam and Muslims as a monolithic, static block.”

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