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    The Producer Of A Show Where A White Woman Wears Brownface To Be A Muslim Says She's Proud Of It

    Fozia Khan, the show's executive producer, told BuzzFeed News it was important for the woman to have an "authentic experience" and "blend" into the host community.

    By now you've probably heard about a new Channel 4 documentary about a white woman from Cheshire who experiences life as a Muslim woman in Manchester during the week of May's terror attack in the city.

    Matt Squire/ Channel 4

    Katie Freeman with her host Saima Alvi and her family on My Week as a Muslim.

    Katie Freeman, 42, worked in the RAF for seven years, and is now a healthcare assistant for the NHS. At the start of the programme, she holds anti-Muslim views.

    Matt Squire/ Channel 4

    Freeman says she would leave a shop if she saw someone who was identifiably Muslim, as her daughter would be frightened.

    "Banning the headdresses and burqas would make a lot of people feel happier, a lot safer," she says.

    "Wouldn't want to sit next to them as I'd automatically assume they're gonna blow something up."

    But she says she is curious about how Muslims live and goes "undercover" to experience life as a British-Pakistani Muslim woman.

    My Week As a Muslim trailer / Channel 4

    Early in the programme, a voiceover says: "In a country where we don't speak to each other, and where we don't trust each other, what would it feel like to become the things you most fear?"

    Freeman gets a prosthetic nose and fake teeth, wears brown contact lenses, and darkens her skin.

    My Week As a Muslim trailer / Channel 4

    She spends the week with a British-Pakistani Muslim family based in Manchester. Her host is Saima Alvi, a teacher and a mother of five who teaches her about her way of life.

    My Week As a Muslim trailer / Channel 4

    Alvi says in the show: "I'm doing this because I think there's a lot of ignorance and fear out there in the UK and I want people to understand what Muslims are really about."

    "We're not aliens. We don't have horns sticking out of our heads. We are just normal, loving, kind, people who care about our families, who care about out local community, who care about society and the world at large."

    In the show, which was filmed during a particularly tense time in Manchester when the city was dealing with the impact of the recent terrorist attack, Freeman at one point has anti-Muslim abuse hurled at her in her hometown while she is dressed in a hijab and jilbab, or full-length gown.

    My Week As a Muslim trailer / Channel 4

    After watching the trailer, people were outraged. They attacked Channel 4 for "brownface".

    From the trailer for Channel 4’s ‘My Week as a Muslim’. Horrendous brownface.

    People questioned whether a prosthetic nose was needed to understand what being a Muslim is like.

    What the hell did I just read? She got fitted with "a prosthetic more Asian-looking nose and complexion darkening m… https://t.co/UoiAPrfHW0

    just saw channel 4 have a show called my week as a muslim where this white woman has brownface and prosthetics so s… https://t.co/sDXl3rLueL

    While others said it was like fancy dress.

    First of all, Muslim women aren’t Halloween costumes

    And asked why the voices of Muslim women were not being heard.

    Just wondering why ‘my week as a Muslim’ has been made when REAL MUSLIM WOMEN can just share their experiences and we can LISTEN TO THEM!?!?

    But speaking to BuzzFeed News, Fozia Khan, the show's executive producer, said it was important for Freeman to have an "authentic experience" and "blend" into the host community.

    Responding to the outrage, Khan said: "We really wanted Katie to have an authentic experience and experience life in the shoes of a Muslim person living in this country, so we wanted her to blend into the host community that she was going to be living with – who are Pakistani Muslim.

    "We wanted her to look like she was part of that community and experience it from within, and also we wanted her to feel she was in the shoes of someone else. We wanted her to feel transformed."

    Khan said: "We didn't feel there was enough for her to put the hijab on without anything else because she would just be Katie with a hijab on. We wanted her to feel different.

    "She goes back to her home town as a different person and experiences what it's like to be from the Pakistani Muslim community at a time like this … She wouldn't have that experience if she'd gone as Katie.

    "There were lots of reasons we wanted her to experience life from within."

    The executive producer said the intention behind Freeman's transformation wasn't to caricature.

    My Week As a Muslim trailer / Channel 4

    "For me it's about intention. Why are you doing it? If you're doing it to help someone understand something – a real purpose at the heart of it – that's what is important to me. Obviously brownfacing to create a caricature is not the same thing. I didn't really see it like that," Khan said.

    When criticism was put to Khan that the voices and agency of Muslim women were not being valued, she said: "I think she [Freeman] got both, which was amazing. She spoke to the family and got to talk to them and got to ask them lots of questions, and she got to experience being in someone else's shoes.

    "For someone who is white to experience racism in that way that a lot of people – including myself – have experienced is quite a powerful thing. And I think really affected her."

    She said she hoped when people watched the full programme, which is to be broadcast on Monday 23 October, they would "get to know Katie a bit, get to know Saima a bit, get to go on a bit of a journey".

    "I'm really proud of it and really confident people will see what we were trying to do and why it was important she experienced the week in that way," she said.

    The controversy is unlikely to die down any time soon. Fiyaz Mughal, founder of community cohesion group Faith Matters, told BuzzFeed News he was "disturbed" and "sickened" by the documentary, and said Channel 4 should issue an apology.

    "I understand what they were trying to achieve," Mughal said. "But there's ways of achieving that. Playing on features and race is very problematic."

    He said the broadcaster needed to apologise and explain the decision. "They need to review which commissioning editor allowed this to take place, because frankly it plays to division rather than bringing people together," he said.

    "What it's done is by putting her in a prosthetic mask and widening her nose is to actually infer difference.

    "You'd think people would have some collective memory not to play on issues like this. So actually I'm really quite sickened by Channel 4, a sensitive broadcaster, not even realising this is completely the wrong direction to go in."

    Samayya Afzal, 26, an activist from Bradford, said the show was insulting and said it didn't require dressing up to recognise the "humanity of Muslims".

    She said: "Dressing someone up as a Muslim, and as the most stereotypical Muslim that you could think of in the UK, and the length they went to present this white woman as an Asian Muslim woman – a prosthetic nose, the skin-darkening makeup, all of that – I found was really, really unnecessary and really insulting, all to achieve this process of this woman changing her mind about Muslims, when she could have very easily asked someone what it's like being a Muslim woman walking down a road in the UK."

    You can watch the full trailer here.

    View this video on YouTube

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