A white, non Muslim woman’s harrowing experience of living as a Muslim for a week for a documentary will be aired on Channel 4 on Monday evening.
Katie Freeman, 42, wore traditional Islamic dress as she went about her daily activities, and was left “sickened” after being subjected to racist abuse from people outside her local pub.
As someone who supported calls to “ban the burqa”, Freeman didn’t have much sympathy for the Muslim community in her hometown of Manchester.
But when she was given a taste of life as a Muslim in Britain as part of an experiment for a TV documentary, her outlook changed dramatically.
She said: “You can’t blame the whole of the Muslims for one person’s mindless act of terror, can you? Just because they choose to live their life differently to me doesn’t mean they’re any less welcome to be here. We have to be strong and put on a united front.”
Katie, who immersed herself in the local Pakistani Muslim community for “My Week as a Muslim” in filming that overlapped with the Manchester terror attack in May this year, was asked by punters if she planned to “blow them up.”
My Week as a Muslim saw Katie move in with Saima Alvi, 49, and her family to live life by Islamic customs and experience the prejudices they face in a culture of Islamophobia.
The cameras followed her as she initially struggled to integrate with the community – including during an uncomfortable stint as a chaperone on a “date” between two young Muslims looking to marry.
The documentary was filmed immediately after the terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena, in which 22 people were killed and 250 injured. Home Office figures released this week showed a rise in hate crime in the aftermath of terror attacks in Manchester and London this year.
After news breaks of the Manchester bombing, Freeman told her host, Saima Alvi: “It’s this community that has bred this terrorist.” Later, speaking to the camera, Alvi says: “It’s very humiliating that I am pigeonholed, or put in the same box as a terrorist.”
Freeman initially says of Muslims: “You see them and think they’re going to blow something up.” Driving through a Muslim neighbourhood, she says: “You wouldn’t even think this was England.”
An outraged Katie is left visibly shaken by the incident, saying: “That’s what they have to put up with all the time don’t they? What harm am I doing walking down there?”
Fozia Khan, the documentary’s executive producer, 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 observe it as an outsider.”