She’s one of the most popular reality TV stars of the last few years, and has been praised for her ability to warmly explain the nuances of her Muslim faith – and highlight the personal impact of racism – to TV audiences in middle England.
But in an incident that highlights just how prevalent Islamophobia is in contemporary Britain, Nadiya Hussain has revealed that she was recently subjected to racist abuse on public transport.
Posting on Twitter on Wednesday night, the baker said that a man refused to sit next to her on a train because of her faith.
A man refused to sit next to me on the train today 'I ain't sitting near a Muslim' he said. His ignorance is his own ruin.— Nadiya Jamir Hussain (@BegumNadiya) December 14, 2016
“A man refused to sit next to me on the train today,” she wrote, adding that the man had told her: “I ain’t sitting near a Muslim.”
“His ignorance is his own ruin,” Hussain said.
Hussain, who was born in Luton and has Bangladeshi parents, has been widely recognised as breaking down false and negative stereotypes about Muslim women. During her appearance on Desert Island Discs, presenter Kirsty Young told Hussain that her fame has been credited with doing “more for race relations than any government initiative”.
But the 31-year-old mother of three said that she was still prepared to encounter racism. “It sounds really silly because I feel like that’s just become part of my life now. I expect it. Absolutely I expect it.
“I expect to be shoved or pushed or verbally abused because it happens and it’s been happening for years.”
Hussain, who was named by Debrett’s as one of the UK’s 500 most influential people earlier this year, said that she chose not to respond to racist abuse. “I feel like there’s a dignity in silence… If somebody’s being negative I need to be the better person.
“I don’t want my children to have a negative attitude to living in the UK. Yes there are those negative people but they’re the minority.
“I love being British, I love being here and this is my home. I don’t want my kids to grow up with a chip on their shoulder.”
British Muslims have suffered an “explosion” in faith-based hatred in recent years, with many subject to heightened racism in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, according to hate monitoring group Tell MAMA. The group said that Muslim women – particularly those who, like Hussain, wore visible Islamic clothing such as the hijab – were particularly vulnerable.
Images: Rex Features