Channel 4 sparks furious race row after 'blacking up' white woman so she can 'live as a Muslim' for a week in new show

Hate crime charity Tell Mama says ‘brownfacing’ and ‘gross exaggeration’ of facial features is ‘pandering to stereotypes of religion and race’

Lucy Pasha-Robinson@lucypasha
Wednesday 18 October 2017 15:44
Channel 4 accused of ‘blacking-up’ a white woman so she can live ‘as a Muslim’ for a week

Channel 4 has come under fire for “pandering to racial stereotypes” after producers painted a white woman brown to experience life as a Muslim.

Katie Freeman went “undercover” as a British Pakistani Muslim for the programme My Week as a Muslim, wearing a hijab and prosthetics to make her nose bigger.

She is heard admitting in the trailer that she normally “wouldn’t want to sit next to” a Muslim “in case they blow something up”.

The concept has sparked a furious race row, with hate crime charity Tell Mama saying it “crosses a line” and is “offensive” to Muslims.

“The most offensive bit is the gross exaggeration of features of the face, and that blurs the line, pandering to stereotypes of race and religion actually,” Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Tell Mama, told The Independent.

“They did not have to do the ‘blacking up’. You could have taken somebody who is willing to talk to Muslims but in that journey experienced what Muslims experience by shadowing, using a secret camera, listening to what happens around women’s role in Islam, this could have been done without pandering to some quite silly 1920s stereotypes.”

Mr Mughal accepted the premise was “coming from a positive place”, but added the manner in which it was executed was “offensive”.

“You can still make it really interesting for the public you don’t have to end up doing something quite covert and unsettling and racial that has crossed the line,” he said.

Ms Freeman said she was shocked at the racist abuse she received on the programme, saying at one point she considered pulling out of the show.

She said: “It makes me ashamed to live here. I was raging and fuming inside. But I also felt vulnerable. What harm was I doing?”

Executive producer Fozia Khan said: “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 just observe it as an outsider.”

The Independent has contacted Channel 4 for comment.