Robert Stanley was a respectable, northern working-class Victorian man who converted to Islam. But his family managed to keep his Muslim identity a secret – for nearly a century. Robert grew up in the cradle of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and was part of the Christian Israelite sect in Ashton-under-Lyne. Self-educated, this grocer and tea-trader made it his mission to help northern working men bribed by rich factory owners during elections. He rose to become one of Britain’s first working-class magistrates and mayors in Stalybridge, witnessing first-hand some of the most violent riots, radicalism and progressive reforms of the Victorian era.
Robert was committed to justice for all, even when his public challenges to an unfair British foreign policy caused troubles for him. He eventually sold his pub and moved to Manchester with his family. In 1898 at the age of 69, he took the astonishing decision to convert to Islam, becoming close friend of famous convert – Abdullah Quilliam – Sheikh of Islam of the British Isles. After his death, his conversion was ‘hidden’ for nearly a century.
Always ‘His Own Man’, Robert ‘Reschid’ Stanley’s life is brought into the light for the first time – thanks to the painstaking family history research of his own descendants and through the words of his great x 3 granddaughter, Christina Longden.
‘Rooted in the past, deeply personal and shaping our present, 'His Own Man' is a necessary and timely read in the debate about identity and belonging’.
BARONESS SAYEEDA WARSI
‘Essential reading for anyone interested in challenging preconceived ideas of Muslim and working-class community life. Chris Longden must be congratulated … Robert Reschid Stanley would be deeply proud of this work.
Compelling socio-political portraits of one of the leading Victorian Muslims, based upon extensive archival research, this book provide a much-needed contribution towards a growing field of research on early Muslim convert communities during Victorian Britain’.
DR SHAMIM MIAH, Senior Lecturer, University of Huddersfield.
'An important and pioneering work, this book highlight the need not for tolerance of each other’s beliefs but of acceptance: an acceptance that can only arise through the understanding the importance of our shared histories.
Herein lies the power of Christina Longden’s research, writing and passion: the celebration of that which we have in common – our humanity’.
PROFESSOR CARL CHINN, MBE, Ph.D.
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