Woman Lives As Muslim For A Week, Gets a Taste of the Abuse

Katie Freeman is a white non Muslim woman who took part in a TV documentary about British Muslims. The documentary “My Week as a Muslim” is a social experiment about living as a Muslim for one week. It aired on Channel 4 Monday October 23rd.

Katie went about her daily activities in her hometown of Manchester as usual but wearing an Islamic dress. She says she received so much racist abuse from people during her week as a Muslim that she was about to pull out of the documentary.

Katie didn’t have much sympathy for the Muslim community and supported the burqa ban. She says about 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.” But her views changed dramatically after she experienced life as a Muslim for a week: “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” she said. Receiving so much abuse just for being Muslim made her feel vulnerable and also ashamed, she explained “It makes me ashamed to live here. I was raging and fuming inside. But I also felt vulnerable. What harm was I doing?”

During her “week as a Muslim” Katie moved in with a Pakistani Muslim family to experience living according to Muslim customs and to have a taste of the prejudices Muslims face on a daily basis. Katie initially struggled to integrate with the Muslim community.

The Manchester terror attack had just occured when filming started. After Katie heard the news of the bombing, she said “That’s what they have to put up with all the time don’t they? What harm am I doing walking down there?”. She’s later shown telling 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.”

The documentary’s 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 observe it as an outsider.”