Close to 5 million viewers tuned into the Season Finale of The Great British Bake off television series this week – two million more than last year’s final and its highest in its history.
The victory of Nadiya Jamir Hussain, a petite 30-year-old, black, head-scarf-wearing mother of three from northern England, in a wildly popular reality show called “The Great British Bake Off” has been greeted by many in Britain as a symbol of acceptance and tolerance. Interestingly enough, Nadiya’s victory coincides with the black history month in the UK.
Many see it as not only a victory for Muslims living in land they have adopted as home but Nadiya’s victory also crushes a few stereotypes about Muslim women we continuously see being perpetuated by the mainstream media.
Let’s take a closer look at these stereotypes:
Wearing a scarf makes Muslim women incapable of doing anything
The scarf has always been a major source of criticism from some quarters. Some countries would like to see it banned and others think that if you have a covering on your head you are incapable of thinking for yourself and to some extent your function in society is limited.
Some may even regard it as a symbol of Muslim male oppression on women. In Britain, a parliamentary report found that the hijab rendered Muslim women less desirable for employment.
Nadiya, expressed some self-doubt at the beginning of the show wondering if her hijab would prove to be a distraction to the viewers. She mentions in an interview with the Radio Times, that she was worried her wearing of a head scarf could prove alienating to fans of the show.
None of this mattered when it came to her completing her tasks. She worked with considerable ease even with her hijab on. Some work places say you can’t wear Hijab in a kitchen especially because it is a hazard. Obviously the opposite is true in Nadiya’s case.
A piece of cloth can never hinder anyone from doing what they need to do. And women in Hijab know this all too well.
Muslims choose not to integrate into the societies they choose to live in
Muslims are constantly told that they do not integrate well into societies. They build their own schools and usually live in communities dominated by their culture. But every single challenge and winning bake that Nadiya pulled off was quintessentially British. In fact, she obviously baked it much better than her born British counterparts.
The judges raved about her iced, cream filled buns and perfect raspberry meille-feuille. And for her final challenge she baked a “big fat British wedding cake” adorned with jewels from her own wedding day as the showstopper in Wednesday’s final.
All Muslim men control and subjugate their wives
Perhaps the biggest surprise to many is that Nadiya’s husband was the one who pushed her to enter the contest.
The mum-of-three told the Sun: “My husband tried to get me to apply two years ago and I said, ‘I don’t have the confidence to do this.’
This year he pretty much forced me and said, ‘You’re really good, you’re really clever, you should just do it, what’s the worst that will ever happen?” Not only did he encourage her, but he also stayed home to take care of the house and children. That alone is completely out of character for any Muslim man according to media reports and entertainment.
Nadiya often describes him in her Tweets as her best friend and the rock in her life.
And on a lighter note, most women were astounded that Nadiya’s husband is actually so good looking- contrary to the Muslim man’s depiction in mainstream media. On the eve of her win, Twitter was ablaze with tweets from women swooning over Bake Off winner’s ‘absolute dreamboat’ partner.
We like Cake just as much as normal people do
Yes, we do. We love cake just as much as anyone else.
It seems as this came as a surprise to many people. The Daily Mail ran a piece on Nadiya titled “I like bunting and cake like anyone else” I am not sure where the idea came form that we didn’t like cake, but it seems that stereotype has been cleared up now.
Nadiya baked most of the British bakes with a considerable amount of ease. Her love of baking can be traced back to the age of 12, when she attended Challney High School in Luton. One teacher in particular, Mrs Marshall, took it upon herself to encourage the young girl, even getting her to help prepare for the baking classes.
Nadiya says, “I love making British classics, things that Mrs Marshall taught me. I wonder if she has been watching Bake Off, because she was definitely the person who inspired me.” I am really glad that this gross misunderstanding has been cleared up for us.
Nadiya’s win certainly comes as a breath of fresh air for many Muslims. Remona Aly a columnist at the Guardian, asks a vital question, “Has Nadiya Hussain won so much more than the Great British Bake Off?” Perhaps we are reading too much into this but, at the same time perhaps it’s pertinent that the world sees us for who we really are— people with hopes, dreams and aspirations.
I did not see a women with a scarf, I did not see an immigrant trying to fit in society which continually forces us into a stereotypical peg hole. All I saw was a girl who grew up loving baking and won the heart of a nation with her personality and her great talent.
Nadiya sums it up best for most Muslim women when she says in the Telegraph, “I’m a mish-mash of everything,” she said. “I’m a Muslim, I’m British, I’m Bangladeshi, I’m a woman, a mother, a wife. All of those make me what I am.”
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