Hijab-clad UK cooking star praised as ‘poster child’ of multiculturalism

To explore her own love of cooking, Nadiya Hussain journeys to Bangladesh, cooking traditional flavors for loved ones in her new show

Nabila Pathan
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The eagerly awaited two-part food travel documentary by British cooking TV star Nadiya Hussain concludes this week on a high note, after feeding into the Burkini debate on social media.

With the show’s title borrowed from the C. S. Lewis’ classic adventure story, “Chronicles of Nadiya” has been one of the most anticipated TV shows this year, following the success of the 2015 Great British Bake off winner Nadiya Hussain who shot to fame after winning the popular competitive cooking show.

To explore her own love of cooking, Nadiya Hussain journeys to Bangladesh, cooking traditional flavors for loved ones and reminiscing of the different emotions she feels in the decade since she last visited for her wedding.

But it was her straight-talking openness about merging her British, Muslim and Bangladeshi identity, especially in reference to her wearing the hijab, which attracted widespread praise in light of the recent debate sparked by France’s Burkini ban.

“Nadiya Hussain’s hijab comments hailed as ‘massively poignant’ after French burkini ban,” stated the Telegraph, whilst The Metro celebrated Nadiya as a “poster-child for British multiculturalism.”

Following the broadcast of the first episode, a number of viewers, including celebrities, took to Twitter, using Nadiya’s story and her comments about the hijab as a challenge to the Burkini ban.


Observing the social media reaction, Muddassar Ahmed, Managing Partner of Unitas Communications, which is a cross cultural communications agency, told Al Arabiya English:

“Whilst the UK’s news media may be revisiting the age-old debate about Muslim women’s clothing, Nadiya Hussain has once again been captivating the British audience but this time, with her exploration of her Bangladeshi/Muslim heritage through food, family and even her head covering.

“The nation’s favorite hijab-wearing, cake-baking, straight-talking personality, who most Brits cheer along and shed tears with, has become an effective undermining tool, especially on social media, against the argument that champions the so-called oppressive facets of the hijab and the burkini.”

Whilst the first episode showed Nadiya return to her Bangladeshi roots, visiting family and memories, the final episode airing on Wednesday this week will show her exploring some of the more scenic landscapes of Bangladesh and learning some of the traditional techniques of fishing.

“When I was young, my dad wouldn’t eat anything unless his relatives were eating with him,” she said, in a recent interview for the Radio Times. “That’s something that I’ve learnt again in Bangladesh. Every time I turned up with the crew, somebody had something to offer. Food is so much more than sustenance. Food is love.”




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