The Chronicles of Nadiya is the positive portrayal of Islam that the world needs to see

When Nadiya Hussain won The Great British Bake Off in 2015 she became probably the most famous hijab-wearing woman in Britain.

Of course, all she wanted to be known for was her baking, but nonetheless she became a poster-child for British multiculturalism.

Now, though, a year on from her Bake Off victory, she’s fronting her own two-part documentary series, the brilliantly-titled The Chronicles of Nadiya, about her trip to visit family in Bangladesh and learn more about the culture she’s descended from.

By the end of episode one I was already annoyed that it was only a two-parter. I could happily spend weeks in Nadiya’s company, learning all about the culture and food of Bangladesh, alongside the frank and personal peeks into her own life.

WARNING: Embargoed for publication until 00:00:01 on 16/08/2016 - Programme Name: The Chronicles of Nadiya - TX: n/a - Episode: n/a (No. 1) - Picture Shows: Nadiya - (C) ©LoveProductions Cleared for Worldwide - Photographer: Martha Delap
Nadiya takes us on a tour of Bangladesh (Picture: BBC/LoveProductions)

Never has such a light-hearted documentary more perfectly summed up the experience of being caught between two cultures.

Most travelogues and food shows usually centre on a white British presenter poking around in an alien culture, delighted by their discoveries.

GBBO champ Nadiya Hussain still receives the same racist abuse she’s experienced ‘for years’

But this time we’re being taken on a tour by someone who is enough a part of the culture to do her own translating and to explain some things that may look strange to western eyes, but is also enough of an outsider to be curious and inquisitive about what she learns.

Best of all, though, are Nadiya’s insights into the Muslim faith. She talks frankly about her decision to wear a hijab, touching on both the racism it attracts and the struggle of coordinating your hijab with your outfit.

The Chronicles of Nadiya is the positive portrayal of Islam that the world needs to see
Nadiya, nailing her hijab/outfit coordination (Picture: BBC/LoveProductions)

She’s critical of traditions in some areas, especially marriage, but seeing her take sweets to her neighbours and family, greeting everyone with ‘Salaam Alaikum’ and tearily thanking them for praying for her success and happiness is enormously moving.

The Chronicles of Nadiya should be mandatory viewing for anyone who thinks that Islam is nothing more than the violence and terror that is regularly reported on the news. Nadiya is disgusted that her hijab might make some people lump her in with terrorists, but she wears it anyway, by choice, as a symbol of her faith.

Hijabs and burkas are a hot topic at the moment, especially in France, where armed police are forcing Muslim women to remove their burkinis in public. Authorities defend their actions by claiming that burkas and hijabs make people ‘uncomfortable’, and try to paint themselves as freeing these Muslim women from oppression.

If anyone tried telling Nadiya that her hijab was an enforced sign of male oppression, I think either she or one of her similarly strong-minded relatives would slap them.

The Chronicles of Nadiya is the positive portrayal of Islam that the world needs to see

The sight of Nadiya and a female cousin shopping and chatting about fashion, food and the meaning of the hijab was an every-day sight, and yet somehow groundbreaking in its simplicity. Through Nadiya’s eyes the strange new world of Bangladesh is made cosily familiar.

Nadiya is a natural, personable presenter, and The Chronicles of Nadiya marks the debut of a powerful, engaging presence on British TV. She demystifies Islam in the most light-handed way, but in a way that could do more good than any amount of serious documentaries could.

This Article was originally published in the METRO

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