02/03/2017 17:13 GMT | Updated 03/03/2017 08:37 GMT

'Extremely British Muslims' Explores Single Life For Those Seeking Spouses

Very revealing.

An eye-opening documentary casting light on the lives of young British Muslims goes behind the scenes of one of the UK’s biggest mosques. 

Channel 4’s ‘Extremely British Muslims’ is a two-part series from a team of Bafta award-winning producers highlighting life at Birmingham Central Mosque.

The first programme, which airs on Wednesday 2 March at 10pm, tells the story of single young Muslims attempting to find spouses through the mosque’s Marriage Bureau, their family and through dating sites.

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Channel 4
Nayera and Bella are struggling to find the right partner in the midst of their lives

Viewers meet 30-year-old Nayera and 24-year-old Bella who are struggling to find the right partner in the midst of their chaotic lives and parental expectations.

Despite choosing to go through the mosque’s marriage service to find a husband, Bella admits she is sometimes envious of romantic dates others might experience. 

“You know when you watch, like, rom-coms and stuff and they’re like, let’s go for weekends away to Paris,” she says.

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But a meeting with a potential match, arranged for her by the Marriage Bureau, involves her being introduced as ‘the candidate’, whilst being observed by her mother and sister.

Meanwhile, Nayera struggles to find common ground on a meet-up arranged through a Muslim marriage website.

The man’s requirements of a wife who will look after him, cook him dinner and prioritise his kids meets robust opposition from Nayera.

She explains her conundrum: “I think race isn’t important to me but religion is important because it’s a fundamental part of who I am.

“Similarly, it would be very, very difficult for me to marry someone who isn’t British or at least Western, just because that’s also a fundamental part of who I am.”

The women aren’t alone. Ash, 28, is resisting his mother’s attempts to arrange a marriage with someone in Pakistan.

He said: “I said ‘no mum, we’re from different parts, from different worlds’. My mum says ‘what do you mean? She talks English’…

“I was just baffled by that, I was like, right, ok, so, all I’m looking for is somebody that speaks English, shouldn’t be too hard - I could find one at the bus stop right now. Yeah, looking for a little bit more than that mum!”

But the mosque is not simply concerned with matchmaking. Its Sharia Council adjudicates on divorce applications.

The council acts as an Islamic court that deals exclusively with divorce applications.

It is also the only such court in the country with a female judge on the panel.

Many of the women who come here have had an Islamic wedding but are not married by British law.

Fatima is one applicant who wishes to be granted a divorce on grounds of emotional abuse and criminal behaviour.

She had gone against her parents’ wishes when she first married him. She regrets rushing into the marriage.

The presiding judge Dr Amra Bone reflects on her case: “This is a marriage of choice, meaning that she met him.

“The wife is discovering afterwards, oh he has been on drugs and so on, and so we think it’s very important for the family to play a role in finding out what the boy is like before, you know, anything happens and in cases where they’ve already fallen in love it is in fact too late.”

Extremely British Muslims’ will air on Channel 4 at 10pm on 2 March and thereafter on All 4.