Rahman to Journalists: White Teeth Is Fiction!

Ziad Hayder Rahman, a London-based lawyer who claims to be the inspiration for the character Magid in White Teeth, has said that Zadie Smith’s take on race relations in Britain was “divorced from reality.” Rahman is the brother of Jimmi Rahman, whom Smith dated at the time, and to whom she dedicated the novel.

Rahman’s own experience in Britain was not as racism-free as Smith makes out. Growing up in the East End he was bullied and beaten, insulted in the street and once had coffee thrown at him from a moving car. When he went to Oxford University he was chased out of the bar and even had a swastika daubed on the door of his room, prompting him to change colleges.

Smith wrote the novel at the age of 24, after reading English at Cambridge, and after it was published in 2000 it was celebrated for its optimist portrait of a “post-racial” country.

Rahman, however, accepts Smith’s right to artistic license. “I recognised myself in White Teeth but I also recognise that it is work of fiction,” said Rahman.

Rahman says that the book doesn’t reflect his anger at “being alienated from British society” or his problems with “the Asian community with which I’m in profound disagreement”. This reaction to White Teeth appears in a new book by Claire Berlinski, titled Menace in Europe: Why the Continent’s Crisis Is America’s, Too. Berlinski’s book has been praised by neo-con cheerleader Daniel Pipes.

Related: “Zadie didn’t tell the real race story.”