A Channel 4 documentary designed to expose Britain as bigoted towards Muslims has been accused of racism and bigotry.
The My Week As a Muslim programme has been slammed for using “blackface” to disguise a white, British woman as a Pakistani Muslim. The subject, Katie Freeman, 44, was given a prosthetic nose, fake teeth, and darkened skin.
In the trailer, she admits not knowing much about Muslims and avoiding sitting next to them on public transport because “you see them and think they’re going to blow something up”. By the end of the show, however, she claims to be shocked and more sympatric towards Muslims.
Yet the “anti-Islamophobia” group Tell Mama claimed the film “crosses a line” and described the documentary as “offensive” to Muslims. “How did Channel 4 think this was acceptable to commission? Not just brownface but altering her nose also,” the group also tweeted.
Channel 4, however, insisted the film was about understanding Muslims, not offending them.
In their description of the programme, Channel 4 wrote: “A woman from a mostly white town uses prosthetics to transform her appearance on a visit to Manchester’s Pakistani Muslim community as the city deals with a recent terrorist attack.”
Fozia Khan, an executive producer with Channel 4, added: “As we were making this film at a time of the terrible terrorist attack in Manchester our contributor was able to experience first-hand the reactions of non-Muslim people to those of Islamic faith, as well as understand how deeply the actions of one person can reverberate through the entire Muslim community affecting their everyday lives.”
Putting a white woman in brown face and changing the size of her nose is outrageously offensive. https://t.co/dZVfjCxcas
— Steve Rose (@steveplrose) October 18, 2017
A spokesman for the Islamist-linked Muslim Council of Britain praised Channel 4 for investigating “Islamophobia” but also said the programme could be racist.
“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.”