Thursday, May 30

Channel 4’s Extremely British Muslims lifts lid on life as a Muslim in Birmingham



A new documentary TV series starting tonight lifts the lid on life as a Muslim in Britain, after film makers had unprecedented access to Birmingham Central Mosque.

The Channel 4 series Extremely British Muslims has spent a year following some of the 6,000 worshippers at one of the largest mosques in Europe.

The cameras have captured their day-to-day lives to explore three themes – finding a partner, the identity crisis facing young Muslim men and the challenges faced by some British Muslims as they try to reconcile the rules of their faith with life in Britain.

It also exposes the dealings of the Sharia Court, including following women who are trying to get a divorce.

And it reveals that there is such demand from Muslims wanting to check the religion’s rules that the Mosque runs a daily telephone helpline.

The resulting three-part series begins on March 2.

Why is Birmingham Central Mosque involved?

The mosque’s leaders hope that by opening their doors they will put paid to false ideas about their religion.

Birmingham Central Mosque’s manager Mohammed Ali says: There seems to be a lot of mythology about what goes on in and around a mosque and Muslim community and this is our attempt to deal with these myths and ensure that the facts are there for everyone to see.

Channel 4 say: “As the number of Muslims in the UK reaches three million, and at a time when British Muslims have found themselves thrust into the spotlight, we have been given privileged access to go beyond the news agenda, into the mosque and document the bustling heart of this community and the many ways in which it intersects with the lives of its worshippers – from its funeral service and Sharia council, to its marriage bureau.

What does the first episode cover?

In All the Single Muslims, the cameras follow young men and women as they try to find spouses through the mosque’s Marriage Bureau service.

One couple on a date have very differing views on a woman’s place in a marriage.

He says: There are some things I would expect from a wife. I would want my wife to look after me by cooking. The house is her responsibility.

The episode follows Ash, 29, who is resisting his mum’s attempts to arrange a marriage with a girl in Pakistan.

Ash says: I said ‘No mum, we’re from different worlds’. My mum says ‘What do you mean? She talks English’.

I was just baffled by that, I was like, OK, so all I’m looking for is somebody that speaks English, shouldn’t be too hard I could find one at the bus stop right now. Yeah, looking for a little bit more than that mum.

We meet Bella , who signs up to the marriage service in a bid to find a husband but is still single.

The episode also explores how women can seek a divorce through the mosque’s Sharia Council . It’s the only one in the country with a female judge on the panel.

Boys To Men – isn’t that a pop group?

It’s also the title of the second episode, which mainly follows two young Muslim men, Waseem Iqbal and Naveed Ahmed.

There’s one scene on a train in which they joke about whose long beard makes them look more like a terrorist.

Nav says: “You notice how many people are looking at us on the train? You probably get that a lot. They probably think you look more likely to blow yourself up than me.

“I can get away with a hipster, you look more like a caveman.”

Waz explains what the temptations of Islamic State could be for some young Birmingham men,

Waz’s friend Reza says: “Here in Birmingham I’m treated as a foreigner but when I go back to my country of origin I am treated as a foreigner.

So where do I fit in? It’s hard for us to find some ground, you know to find a platform where we can express our views from. We feel like we don’t have a voice. That no one speaks on our behalf.

What’s in the final episode?

The Rules follows some of Birmingham’s Muslims trying to live their daily lives by the rules in the Qu’ran.

So many of them ring the mosque asking for guidance that the Imams run a daily telephone helpline.

Mohammad Imtiaz says he takes calls about everything from divorce to leaky bladders: You get people who like to follow Islam to the fullest.

But we shouldn’t get tied up in small things like, you’re not allowed to wear a silk shirt, you’re not allowed to wear gold. It is all down to the strength of your belief. It’s what’s inside that counts.