Channel 4 show My Week as a Muslim has caused controversy – even before it airs.
The one-off show is broadcast tonight, Monday, October 25 at 9PM, and sees Katie, from a predominantly white town in the North West, get to know Saima, who lives just a short drive away in Manchester.
Saima wants to challenge Katie’s commonly-held views about Muslim people. To do this, Saima, a British born Muslim with Pakistani heritage, invites Katie to spend a week living in the heart of Manchester’s Pakistani Muslim community.
To enable Katie to meaningfully walk in Saima’s shoes, a team of specialist make-up and prosthetic artists transform Katie’s appearance, to look like she’s of Pakistani origin.
But the idea hasn’t won a lot of fans, with the Muslim Council of Britain saying it has caused “deep offence” to some.
A spokesperson for the MCB told The Guardian: “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.”
Fozia Khan, the documentary’s executive producer, defended the show: “The programme allowed Katie to meaningfully walk in the shoes of someone from a different background and to experience what it is like to be part of the British Pakistani Muslim community, rather than observe it as an outsider.”
Explaining that the idea came about following the rise in reports of Islamophobia following the EU referendum, Khan continued: “We saw divided communities, people living side by side but not mixing.
“We wanted to do something bold, a kind of social experiment: to take someone with no exposure to the Muslim community and give her a really authentic experience. The transformation in her appearance was important for that.
“If we’d done it for entertainment purposes, I can see why it would be offensive. But its purpose and intention needs to be understood. I feel really proud of it and I hope that when people see it, they will understand why we did it.”
My Week As A Muslim airs at 9PM on Channel 4.