What is My Week as a Muslim?
My Week as A Muslim is a Channel 4 documentary that aims to give a frank insight into the everyday lives of British Muslims, including the anti-Islamic sentiments they often encounter.
The one-off film sees Saima, a Pakistani Muslim woman, invite Katie, who is from a mainly white town and has professed anti-Muslim views, to spend a week living with her and her family in the centre of Manchester’s Muslim community.
Make-up and prosthetics are used to give Katie brown skin and try to make her look as if she is of Pakistani origin. She is also dressed in a hijab.
The idea is that Katie’s experience of public attitudes and Islamophobia will help her to empathise with Muslims and therefore challenge her prejudices against the community.
The terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena happened during filming, making Katie’s experience even more acute.
Why is it controversial?
Following the release of the trailer, My Week as a Muslim has been widely criticised for “brownface” and has caused a racism row on social media.
A spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain said: “The use of brownface and blackface has a long racist history and it is not surprising that it has caused deep offence amongst some communities. Had we been consulted, we would not have advised this approach.
“We do, however, laud the apparent goals of the documentary – to better understand the reality of Islamophobia, which has become socially accepted across broader society.”
Many people have voiced their outrage on social media, with some questioning why the documentary couldn’t show a Muslim family without involving a disguised white woman.
Just seen advert for a programme called My Week as a Muslim , where a white woman appears in brownface to…urgh do you know what?I'm tired.
— Anouchka Burton (@AnouchkaBurton) October 17, 2017
Similarly, an opinion piece in the Guardian pointed out that women of colour are already under-represented in the media, and asked: “Why not give them a voice and hear from them directly?”
How has the producer reacted?
Producer Fozia Khan wrote a piece in the Guardian defending My Week as a Muslim. She wrote: “‘Blackface’ or ‘brownface’ has historically been used as a form of entertainment to mock non-white people. This film is the antithesis of that.
“Its purpose is to inform and promote understanding between communities, not to caricature them.”
Khan also explained why they decided to tell the story from the perspective of a white woman: “People have suggested that we could have used a different approach – such as giving Muslim women hidden cameras to show their experiences. This has been done before, and we wanted to try something different.”