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. R
obert grew up in the cradle of Britain’s Industrial Revolution and was part of Ashton under Lyne’s Christian Israelite sect.
Self-educated, this grocer and tea-trader made it his mission to help working men bribed by rich factory owners during elections.
He rose to become one of Britain’s first working-class magistrates and mayors, witnessing first-hand some of the most violent riots, radicalism and progressive reforms of the Victorian era. Robert advised Parliament on the enfranchisement of the working classes and on whether the secret ballot should be introduced.
His desire for justice led him to challenge the British government over their unfair foreign policies towards non-Christians.
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. ‘Imagining Robert’ uses creative fiction to paint a colourful and fascinating portrait of one of Britain’s unsung working-class heroes. Written by Robert’s great x 3 granddaughter, Christina Longden and based on her extensive research, this book will both inform and entertain its readers. ‘Rooted in the past, deeply personal and shaping our present … a necessary and timely read in the debate about identity and belonging.’ Baroness Sayeeda Warsi
He witnessed first-hand the Industrial Revolution, Chartist uprisings, the Lancashire Cotton Famine and the anti-Irish Murphy Riots and he was even called to Parliament in 1869 to give evidence about the need for the secret ballot for voting men – all of this was before he became Mayor of Stalybridge.”
After stepping down from his two terms as mayor, Robert went on to run a pub, which he sold in 1898 and shortly after, became a Muslim.
Christina and her family found out that he became vice-chairman of the country’s first mosque in Liverpool and was great friends with the most famous convert of all, Sheikh William ‘Abdullah’ Quilliam.
The two new books – one fiction and one the factual account of his life
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