We don’t need to watch a white woman ‘browning up’ to explain racism. We could just listen to Muslims talk about their experiences
It has been 20 years since Brass Eye first appeared, but the spirit of the satirical news show lives on in My Week As a Muslim (Channel 4), a documentary so spectacularly odd in every respect that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t conceived as a dare. It follows Katie Freeman, 42, ex-RAF, who now works as a healthcare assistant in the NHS. Katie lives in Winsford, Cheshire, and is frightened of Muslims. She explains her belief that people are coming to this country and stretching its resources. The voiceover notes, with withering timing, that she lives in one of the whitest areas of Britain and rarely mixes with anyone outside of her own ethnicity.
In order to challenge her prejudices, such as avoiding sitting next to women in headscarves because she’s scared they’re about to blow something up, the producers make Katie spend the week in Manchester, talking to some real-life Muslims. But what is this, a radio documentary? This is TV, so for that visual point of view, that hashtag talking point, she goes full immersive, like Wife Swap meets Undercover Boss meets Snog Marry Avoid meets the bits of Little Britain that everyone has decided were a bad idea. Katie is turned into a British Pakistani Muslim, with prosthetics, a hijab and enough foundation to sink an ITV2 reality star. That way, the thinking seems to be, she – and crucially, insultingly, the viewers – will really learn what life is like for Muslims in the UK today.