The Study Circle by Haroun Khan - review by Richard Smyth

Richard Smyth

Estate of Flux

The Study Circle


Dead Ink Books 200pp £9.99 order from our bookshop

This impassioned bulletin from the Muslim communities of south London comes in a rush of sociopolitical urgency. Ishaq, Marwane and Shams – respectively, the clever one, the laid-back one and the hard-pressed chancer – are Muslim lads uneasily connected to one another by their upbringing on a squalid housing estate. At times, the dank London underbelly drawn by Haroun Khan has a pungent authenticity; at others, we’re forced to wonder if so many pontificating windbags can really coexist in a single city. There’s a freshness to the boys’ irreverent back and forth (with its peppering of assalmu alaikums and subhanallahs), but every few pages someone or other cranks up an unwieldy extempore oration on society or religion that kills the pace and takes all the zip out of the dialogue. The plot builds at a stop-start pace towards a climactic English Defence League march.

For the reader unfamiliar with this milieu, there’s a lot to learn here. The tension between first- and second-generation British Muslims is very well drawn (the Islam of Ishaq’s generation seems to his parents ‘like a new and exotic way of practising the religion’, more ‘textual’, less rooted in the

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