Champion baker rises to the pressure

Eve Dugdale
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For Nadiya Hussain, entering a television baking show was simply a way to show off her talents in the kitchen.

She didn’t want to become famous to represent Muslims.


But that was her concern when she appeared, and went on to win, the BBC’s ‘Great British Bake Off’ show back in 2015.

The TV star, who is a second-generation British-Bangladeshi, recently spoke out about how she “struggled” with her faith being so tied to her identity.

She told the UK’s Radio Times magazine how she felt like an identity was being “forced” on her and said: "I certainly didn't enter a baking show in the hope of representing anyone.

"Being a Muslim for me was incidental, but from the day the show was launched, I was 'the 30-year-old Muslim' and that became my identity."

She told the magazine she struggled at the beginning, because she felt like she was the “token” Muslim.

She added: "I'd never, in all my years, been labelled like that.

"I heard it constantly, 'Oh, she's the Muslim, she's the Muslim'...

"And I was so shocked by the amount of negative comments I got."

While he’s never felt like a “token” Muslim, British-born Rachid Abu-Laith says he understands why Nadiya was worried.

He says: “She will feel that when people look at her, they see her headscarf. She wears an overt symbol of her faith on her head so she will know that everyone will see that she’s Muslim unlike me.

“I can see why she would feel upset or annoyed that people are immediately making an issue of the fact that she is Muslim because it is only one part of who she is. She is a person, a woman, a mother, a family member, a British citizen, all those things as well as being a Muslim and it does feel like religion is always mentioned before everything else when you’re Muslim.”

While Rachid, whose parents are from Morocco, says he’s never worried that he is representative of other Muslims, he says he does feel like there is more pressure on Muslims to be good citizens when they live in a non-Muslim country.

He adds: “I feel like I am constantly being judged because I am Muslim. It’s probably because I’m not the best Muslim so people who see or hear of things I may have done or not done feel like the two things are not mutually compatible. Like there’s no such thing as a sinful person who can be a Muslim.”

Jiah Khan is a British Pakistani and shares Rachid’s views. She says she feels judged because of her faith “all the time”.

She says: “It's always the non-Muslims I feel judging me. For example, if I go to play bingo I get people saying: "should you be gambling?" When I'm on a night out I get people asking "are you allowed that" when all I’m drinking is a mocktail. Also when I missed some of my fasts this year, it was always my English colleagues I felt I had to hide from when eating as I did get a lot of tuts and raised eyebrows.”

While TV star Nadiya Hussain admitted that negative comments were in the minority and the majority of people were very positive, she said it made her realise that her fellow countrymen were very accepting. She said: “I never realised Britain had such open arms.”

And whether it’s faith, heritage, the way a person dresses or how much money they have in the bank, we should never judge them. After all, who we to do that, asks British-Pakistani Majid Karim.

He says: “As a Muslim we have our blueprint which are the Quran and Hadith. So we believe Islam is perfect but Muslims are far from it. So we try to follow the example of Prophet Muhammad in all our affairs as we believe he was the best of creation, the ultimate role model. However like with every society, don't judge what’s outside. Just because a guy has a big beard or a sister wears a scarf, it doesn't mean they are better than a man who shaves or a sister who doesn’t wear a scarf.

“Don't judge a book by its cover because you don't know what’s in that person's heart. Only God knows as he's closer to us than our jugular vein!”