Dubbed My week as a Muslim, Channel 4 recently caused public outrage with their documentary in which a white woman is armed with prosthetics, tan and a headscarf to experience life as a Muslim woman in the UK.
It alarms me that documentaries like this can ever be considered as progressive or remotely insightful. Despite the producer's claim that its intention was 'to educate', it seems that the show's attempt to portray the normality of Muslims did nothing but showcase a disrespectful and racist caricature of the Muslim woman.
Muslim woman or not, the decision to brownface and depict a monolithic view of Muslims showcased ignorance... and more importantly enacted the biggest pet peeve of many Muslims: Inaccurate representation.
To put things simply, here is a list of why it is unacceptable;
- There are white Muslims. Yes, really. (rendering the brown facing completely unnecessary).
- Muslim and Pakistani people are not synonymous. Not all Muslims are Pakistani and not all Pakistanis are Muslim.
- Big nose? Again, why the inherent assumption that all Muslims present particular ethnic features?
- There are actual Muslim women who have their own narratives. However, they are apparently unreliable and cannot translate to the greater public so we must, of course, rely on focalising the Muslim experience through a central white narrative to give us validation and act as a mouthpiece for our Real, lived experiences.
- Not all Muslim women wear the hijab in the same way. There is no singular way of wearing the hijab, different cultures wear it differently.
- Not all Muslim women are visibly Muslim. (i.e. they do not all wear hijab)
And finally, aside from the obvious reasons of outrage...
There should not have to be a documentary in order to recognise Muslims as normal human beings.
(This article was also posted at culturallyinappropriate.wordpress.com )