Positioning Sufiana Kalam at Bradford Literature Festival

Irna Qureshi and Syima Aslam

Date: 13 November 2014Time: 5:30 PM

Finishes: 13 November 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College BuildingsRoom: G51

Type of Event: Seminar

Series: Muslims, Trust and Cultural Dialogue


There has been a rise in the popularity of the public performance of Sufi poetry among diasporic South Asian communities, including among more orthodox Muslim Pakistanis in England. Renowned Pakistani singers such as Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and Abida Parveen have not only popularised the form in Pakistan and India, but among world music circles too. Earlier this year, British Asian music’s biggest stars, Yo Yo Honey Singh and Mika Singh’s version of the centuries old classic Sufi anthem, ‘Damadum Mast Kalandar’ reached the top of the BBC Asian Network’s download chart, and in doing so, introduced Sufiana Kalam to a new generation of Hindu, Muslim and Sikh listeners.

Against the backdrop of Islamophobic stereotypes in Britain today, Sufism remains the attractive, accessible and liberal face of Islam. With this in mind, the directors of a ground breaking literature festival in Bradford are looking to use the devotional verse of Muslim mystics to promote respect and understanding between the different communities in Bradford, and to change the perception of the city’s Muslims.

The Bradford Literature Festival had its launch weekend in September 2014 and will run next year from 15th to 24th May 2015. The festival is a celebration of the written and spoken word, reflecting the cultural sensibilities of Bradford’s diverse demographic. According to the 2011 Census, Bradford is home to the largest proportion (20.4%) of Pakistanis in England, a quarter of the district’s population, and making it the fourth highest proportion of Muslims in the UK.

It is therefore fitting that the festival should devote a significant proportion of programming to celebrating Pakistan’s literary heritage, culture and languages, as well as emphasising Islam’s rich literary and artistic tradition. The aim is to dispel Islamophobic stereotypes, contribute to the Muslim community’s self-esteem, reduce feelings of marginalisation and encourage engagement with viagra belgique the arts.

This seminar will focus on the potential of Sufiana Kalam to help young British Muslims to develop a sense of identity and pride in their cultural heritage; to help older generations to cut across barriers of class, literacy and cultural engagement; as well as appeal to the literature festival’s broader non-Muslim audience throughout West Yorkshire. The literary festival engages with themes of trust and dialogue, given our audience base and the particular issues we face in Bradford. In this combined presentation we offer a community perspective from the ground.


Irna Qureshi

Irna Qureshi

Irna Qureshi is co-director of the Bradford Literature Festival. As an ethnographer, writer and oral historian, she specialises in British Asian arts, culture and identity. She has collaborated on several exhibitions and books on these themes, including ‘Coming of Age: 21 Years of Mela in the UK’ and ‘The Grand Trunk Road: From Delhi to the Khyber Pass’. Her personal essays have appeared in Critical Muslim, South Asian Popular Culture, The Guardian’s Northerner Blog and New Statesman.

Syima Aslam

Syima Aslam

Syima Aslam has over 15 years’ experience as a marketeer, specialising in grassroots and multi-channel marketing. As an audience engagement specialist based in Bradford, she has programmed numerous arts and cultural events for diverse communities. Currently, she is combining her background and expertise with her love of literature - classic as well as contemporary, English as well as Urdu - to develop a groundbreaking literature festival for Bradford. The festival as well providing mainstream events devotes a significant proportion of its programming to celebrating Pakistan’s literary heritage, culture and languages, and emphasising Islam’s rich literary and artistic tradition through accessible mediums such as Sufiana Kalam.

Organiser: Centre for the Study of Pakistan

Contact email:  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Contact Tel: + 44 (0)20 7898 4893

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