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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 16:07 GMT
Ali's Brick Lane upsets community
Monica Ali
Monica Ali's book is nominated for the Guardian First Book Award
Bangladeshi community leaders have called Monica Ali's acclaimed debut novel Brick Lane a "despicable insult".

The Greater Sylhet Development and Welfare Council, representing many Bangladeshis in the UK, wrote to the book's publishers Random House and said the book was "shameful".

The book tells the story of a Bangladeshi woman who moves to London.

The council complained the book treated Bangladeshis as "economic migrants" and portrayed them as ignorant.

It wrote an 18-page letter complaining outlining objections, and also sent a copy to John Carey, chairman of this year's Booker Prize judges, who nominated Ali's novel.

We find both the accusations against it and any demand for censorship ludicrous
Brick Lane's publisher Random House

The novel is nominated in the Guardian First Book Award, which will be given out on Thursday.

A passage where the character Chanu derides the Bangladeshis of Brick Lane was cited in the complaints. In it, he describes them as "uneducated. Illiterate. Close-minded. Without ambition".

A spokeswoman from Ali's publisher, Random House, told BBC News Online the company did not believe the book's views were offensive.

Larry Finlay, managing director of Transworld Publishers, a Random House company, said: "A representative of The Greater Sylhet Development and Welfare Council in UK wrote to us earlier in the year expressing objections to certain passages in Brick Lane.

"As we replied to him at the time, Brick Lane is a work of fiction."

"Monica Ali's Brick Lane is a novel that we are enormously proud to have published - we find both the accusations against it and any demand for censorship ludicrous," she added.

The complaints have taken six months to surface. Ali's book, which was published in June, has been a critical hit and commercial bestseller.

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