New Book Out: Islam in Victorian Liverpool

Yahya Birt
2 min readJun 24, 2021
Asmay’s Islam in Victorian Liverpool

I’m glad to say that our annotated translation of Yusuf Samih Asmay’s unique Ottoman Turkish travelogue about Britain’s first mosque community in Liverpool from 1895 is now out, which also features a long scene-setting analysis of the text, alongside key archival documents and short biographical notices of key members of the Liverpool Muslim Institute. It was a team effort by myself, Riordan Macnara and Münire Zeyneb Maksudoğlu. Conducted entirely through Google Docs and WhatsApp, it was a rewarding and intense period of translation, archival research and writing in the second half of 2020.

You can get hold of the book from Claritas Books in Swansea. They have done a marvelous job with the cover design and the setting of the book. It’s an absolute bargain at £10, and is designed to appeal to the lay reader as well as the specialist. Asmay’s travelogue is irreverent and witty, and the detailed footnotes, which are there to satisfy the experts, can be safely ignored by the general reader.

We are free to do interviews and events about the book, so please do get in touch with me directly or through the publishers. There are three main themes that emerge from the book that are not only of considerable historical interest but also resonate deeply with British Muslims today:

  1. How much can conversion to Islam be a process of gradual adaption rather than an instant adoption of the expectations of “born Muslims”? Quilliam and his community faced familiar questions about their adoption of an Anglo-Islamic synthesis with Protestant liturgical forms.
  2. Where do British Muslims stand with regard to the politics of the umma and nation? For Quilliam’s community, this wasn’t as yet a post-caliphate conundrum, but the debate then about dual loyalties provides an instructive mirror for our times now.
  3. How do we respond if we find out that our religious leaders are not the role models we would like them to be? Asmay’s account questions Quilliam’s fitness as a religious leader in ways that fascinatingly echoes the #MeToo moment today.