Book Review: The Last of the Lascars – Yemeni Muslims in Britain 1836-2012
Aside from Islamic theology, my other keen reading interest is on Muslims cultures and societies (yeah I know it’s not that great a jump). I read a book last year called Bengali Harlem which traced the roots and history of South Asian migrants, mostly from the Bengal, to the United States. What made that book interesting was it talked about a community that has been greatly overlooked by American historians and sociologists, and broke fresh new ground and provided the way for ordinary peoples’ stories and struggles to be brought out into the open and appreciated.
In the same vein comes this book, ‘The Last of the Lascars’, this time discussing the British Yemeni community based mostly in Cardiff and Sheffield. For a lot of people interested in British Muslim culture, the Yemeni community comes up as one of the oldest, if not the first established immigrant Muslim community in Britain. I first found out about this in articles on the BBC and Saudi Aramco World, and this book provides more in depth details and history about Yemeni sailors who came to settle in this country: The issues they had to face, how their community developed, where they are now, and where they’re heading.
As a British Muslim, it helps to understand the context of the society and the environment we are currently in. Reading some of the newspaper excerpts from 100 years ago mentioned in the book about the sailor riots after World War I, it didn’t seem to far off from what we read in The Daily Mail regarding Muslims today. It provides us with a context and understanding of how little some things have changed in a century, and by looking with how our predecessors dealt with those problems provides us with ideas of how we can deal with similar issues in our time.
The book is very thoroughly researched, and quite in depth. Its style is written in a chronological order, starting from the first beginnings of the British Yemeni community in the Victorian era to the present day. It’s an interesting read for those who are interested in the kind of topic. After this and Kube Publishing’s other book on Abdullah Quilliam I look forward to further interesting works from them on the British Muslim community.