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Controversial C4 doc ‘My Week As A muslim’ evokes mixed reactions from viewers

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A one-off documentary called “My Week as a Muslim,”  which sees a white woman dress as a Pakistani Muslim and attempt to integrate into the Muslim community, has evoked mixed reactions from viewers.

The Channel 4 programme saw Katie Freeman, a 44-year-old National Health Service health-care assistant dressed as a Pakistani Muslim — complete with makeup to darken her skin, a prosthetic nose and hjiab — live with British born, Pakistani heritage Muslim mother Saima Alvi and her children and experience firsthand what it’s like to be a Muslim in Britain today and challenge some of the assumptions and prejudices that different communities in the U.K. have about each other.

Whilst some have applauded the show, others have furiously criticised the programme, with most of the mockery and criticism aimed at Freeman, particularly focusing on her change of appearance by donning a hijab, darkening her skin and using prosthetics to change the shape of her nose.

One Twitter viewer mocked Freeman’s look: “The brown face & hideous prosthetic has only made her look like Bo Selecta characters tho

Others were much more critical and were furious that a white face was changed to a brown face to make a point.

 

The majority of the criticism’s came from viewers who felt patronised, wondering why the documentary makers felt that the way to show Islamophobia was to find a white woman and put her in ‘brownface’ make-up when they could have simply given a hidden camera to one of the hundreds of thousands of women in the UK’s almost 3 million strong Muslim population

One viewer wrote on twitter: “Because our oppression does not exist until a white person experiences it and legitimises it.” And another wrote: “What is it really like to be a Muslim in Britain Today? WHY NOT ASK AN ACTUAL MUSLIM?”

However, it wasn’t all critical as many seemed to have empathy with Freeman and commended her brave acknowledgment of her prejudices and how she influenced her daughter.

We’re told early into the programme that before Freeman’s experiment started, she had never spent any time with Muslims and she admitted to holding some intolerant views. Driving through a Muslim neighbourhood you see Freeman saying: “you see them and think they’re going to blow something up.” At another point, she remarks, “you wouldn’t even think this was England.”

Katie Freeman dressed as a Muslim for C4 show “My Week As A Muslim”

But once she donned her Muslim attire, Freeman’s views changed and said she began to see things differently. She was shouted at while walking down the street, and heckled while passing her local pub. One man called her a “f—ing Muslim.”

“It makes me ashamed to live here,” Freeman said later. “I was raging and fuming inside. But I also felt vulnerable. What harm was I doing?”

Nadeem Murtaja Chair of human rights and civil liberties charity Just West Yorkshire said: ” Living every day in a fairly mono-cultural town where there aren’t sides or neighbourhoods “to feel safer” I found the programme very interesting.”

He continues: “Really interesting that a health worker that works such long shifts harbours/ed such racist and Islamophobic views – and if it takes prosthetics to understand the life of a Muslim in the UK today and bring communities closer together – despite an all time five year high in Islamophobia and racism then we should be investing in and start distributing these ugly prosthetics (and a samosa) to tackle the causes of hate – then this documentary was worth while.

“I have to say, that for me the experiment achieved it’s purpose purely for that family, and hopefully other viewers too. It’s such a shame that it needs a documentary to understand how the civil liberties and human rights of British Muslims are being compromised every day. Though on the plus side, at least the documentary highlights how much / scale of Islamophobia does not get reported – moreover the evidence in shift in attitude was certainly an eye opener.”

Fatima Hussain, who herself has been the victim of hate crime and Islamaphobia also shared her views on social media. She said: ” It takes strength and courage to stand up on national TV and say I know nothing of Muslims lives, I’ve wrongly influenced my child.”

 

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