Anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK has been on the rise for years, with Muslim women more likely to face attacks and abuse. There’s often a spike when there’s a terrorist attack, which is doubly chilling when Muslims are just as likely to be victims of terrorism as anyone else. Against this backdrop of hostility, Channel 4 reached the welcome decision to share the experiences of the UK’s Muslim women with the British public. A documentary that would allow non-Muslims, and perhaps even Muslim men, to gain an understanding of the prejudice and racism we encounter on a daily basis. Of course, the best way to do this is obvious. If you want to grasp the reality of life as a Muslim woman, you ask a bigoted non-Muslim white woman to don a hijab, fake nose and yellow teeth and sit back and prepare for enlightenment. Yes, let’s get her to “brown-up” as a racist caricature so that she can report back her findings. She’ll realise the error of her ways too, ah so misguided. Her empathy will win out. So generous. What Channel 4 have produced in My Week As a Muslim, is a masterclass in shockingly offensive bile. Shall we begin with the deeply entrenched racist history behind “brownface”, or the constant conflation of Pakistani with Muslim? How about the disturbing voyeuristic obsession with our “real lives”. Because, of course! They must be somehow mysterious and otherworldly these Muslim Lives. Alright, how about the paternalism? The sensationalism? The idea that you could occupy our existence for a week? The ethnocentrism? The patronising hijab-splaining of Muslim women to Muslim women? We’re just noses in headgear, why ask us, eh? The overarching sentiment to be gleaned by many Muslim women watching My Week is a Muslim is an all too familiar one; no one cares about your stories. The lengths the producers go to just to avoid directly asking Muslim women about their experiences of Islamophobia speaks volumes about who is a legitimate voice. The pain we face isn’t so important. Let’s think more about the guilt of the poor Islamophobes. They’re just scared, after all, right?
Sabeena Akhtar in Fake nose, yellow teeth and a hijab: everything you need to dress up like a Muslamic this Halloween (Mediadiversified)