Humaira Aslam, a British Pakistani Muslim from the south of England, speaks up about the controversial British documentary “My week as a Muslim” and says producer Fozia Khan “should know better.”
How does a white woman dressing up as a Hijabi Muslim woman make you feel?
I am a British Pakistani Muslim woman. It’s literally one of the most offensive and upsetting things I personally have seen on television with regards to my religion and my ethnicity. She has been dressed up as a Pakistani woman specifically. Given a prosthetic nose, a bigger nose, to make her look like someone of my background. They have darkened her skin to look like someone like me. They stuck a hijab on a woman who is ignorant about its meaning, and said go experience life as one of them. It makes me feel alienated, like people from my background can be used for entertainment and for a televised social experiment to provide entertainment to the masses. I feel like my people have been mocked.
Can you explain why you feel that?
Makes me feel like my experience as a British Pakistani Muslim woman has to be validated by a white British woman for anyone to listen to us or take all that we have said about our experiences seriously
Do you know anyone who wears the hijab (or even yourself as a Muslim)? What kind of message do you think this send to British Muslims about their experience?
It feels so crazy to me. I know so many women who do wear the hijab. It completely disregards their experience. There is so much more than just shouting abuse across the street. Hijabis can get treated or seen differently in the workplace, too, and at school, on public transport etc. (As I don’t personally wear it all of that is based off stories shared with me by my hijabi friends and family.) What about the women who revert to Islam and start wearing the hijab? What about their experience? They could have supportive family but some of them may not — what about them? It’s just not as simple as what’s being shown on television. It’s so reductive.
Is their anything you’d like to share that you’ve experienced as a Muslim woman yourself?
No. I wouldn’t like to share any experiences at this moment in time
What does the skin darkening represent to you beyond her skin just looking a few shades darker?
Skin darkening to me is just crazy. People are dubbing this brown-face, which I completely agree with. If you are familiar with blackface, you will know that it was basically to make a horrible caricature of black people, not only was skin painted black but features such as lips were exaggerated. Now here we have a woman who’s being painted brown and her nose is being exaggerated, her teeth are being changed, her eye color has been changed, etc. Instead of using a Pakistani person with a hidden camera, they have made a crude version of us to go out there and be subjected to racism so it can go on film like, “Wow, this is what a Pakistani Muslim woman goes through. Incredible.” Like we are some aliens or something.
You tweeted a bit about the “you see them and you just think, they’re gonna blow something up” part in the trailer. Can you elaborate your thoughts on that?It feels like they chose the most ignorant woman to take part in this. Why was it necessary? For the entertainment factor. Clearly, she is small-minded and has spent so many years thinking like this. Is one program going to fully transform her thoughts on Muslims? I don’t think so. They didn’t even choose a lady who wasn’t ignorant or racist but didn’t fully believe the abuse we got — no. They chose someone who saw a woman in Islamic dress and felt like they were going to blow her up. Why not put a group of people like this is a room for a week and get their misconceptions cleared? And educate them?! Instead, they just made her face the same abuse we do. Doesn’t seem like any of her misconceptions about our religion will be clarified for her.
Just like there is with everything, there are probably people who support this show. What do you have to say about those who potentially back the show up (i.e the producer, script writer, etc.) especially knowing that the producer is Pakistani, judging by her name, Fozia Khan?
The people who made it, they completely misjudged the concept. And instead of defending it, they should just take it down and issue an apology. To Fozia Khan, specifically — you should know better.
And what do you want to say to viewers who support this?
To viewers: please, if you want to really understand, speak to someone you know or someone you meet who is Muslim about their experiences. You will find similarities in these stories and differences but you will gain a true understanding of what it is like to be a Muslim in Britain if you are truly interested in our experience.
What do you think Fozia Khans initial intention was? Do you think she wanted to be genuine or controversial ?
I think Fozia Khan wanted to produce a documentary that addressed crucial issues in a way that would cause controversy. She has said it wasn’t her intention but she did make a remark saying she didn’t follow a British Muslim around “because it’s been done before.” So then don’t make a documentary…? She needed a gimmick, I think, to get it approved. In any case, it was completely tone deaf.