Charlotte Bibby | Mehreen Baig
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Mehreen Baig

June 2017

 

Mehreen is a 27 year old British-Asian who after taking part in BBC’s “Muslims Like Us” has been pursuing a profession in TV. She recently finished her career as an English teacher and aims to be a more identifiable role model for young British-Asian girls.

 

Instagram: @queenmehreen | Twitter: @thequeenmehreen | Website: mehreenbaig.com

 

Click below to scroll through extracts from our interview.

Since Muslims Like Us I have overwhelmingly positive feedback and I think it’s because there is a lack of Asian representation in the media, so as soon as people, especially young Asian girls, saw someone who vaguely reminded them of themselves, they were really interested and wanted to find out more about me. So my social media exploded and therefore TV companies gained a lot of interest in me. Because before that if we watched TV, all we had to see to remind ourselves of someone like us is Goodness Gracious Me which isn’t a real representation of what Asian people are like these days. I wasn’t ever really into TV ironically growing up, maybe subconsciously that was because there was no one I could look up to and aspire to be like. I was into music so people like Rihanna and Beyoncé… I wouldn’t say I looked up to them, though. I looked up to real people in real life because you could aspire to be like them and it was realistic.

 

In my house, we’ve always been taught that everything is done in balance, everything is done in moderation, nothing is done in the extreme, so I can’t tell you I feel more Asian than British or British than Asian. There are parts of both my cultures that I adore and I embrace and there are parts of both my cultures that I’m not so keen on, that I don’t necessarily participate in. I don’t drink, so it doesn’t mean I won’t ever go to a pub, but you won’t ever find me getting drunk with my friends at the same time. I don’t dress in a way where you would typically expect an Asian girl to dress, I dress in a very western way. So I embrace the bits of both that I like and I think it makes quite a balanced mix.

 

I hope that the new path that I’ve chosen, to be on television, to be a broadcast journalist, to go and explore issues that aren’t necessarily really addressed is successful. When it comes to TV, the main issue as we see surrounding Islam, surrounding the Asian community, are things like honour killings and forced marriages and female genital mutilation and I think we have day to day issues as British Asian young people that we don’t necessarily see, and I want to create a more positive image on TV. I want our daughters to be able to grow up and have someone who reminds them of them. We need more positive young Muslim role models that young people can relate to, because right now it’s an ongoing cycle of lack of representation or unreliable representation in the media. You hear a lot of extreme voices, and when you’re constantly told you’re a villain, people will start to believe it, so we need people that also look like heros to counteract it.

 

What can stand in the way is for example recently with the attacks, the Manchester attack, the Westminster attack, the Muslims as a whole get quite a, a very negative response. And when something like that happens it becomes very difficult for people to be able to go back on TV again and say “hey, here I am and I’m a normal one, and we’re actually the majority” because then again my voice becomes silenced by the overwhelming negative response that’s going on, especially across social media. So that’s a barrier but I hope to overcome it.

Being Muslim is everything to my day to day existence. I may not be the most practicing Muslim in the world but my inherent morals and values of life are morals that have been taught to me by my religion, so that’s not to say those morals are different to normal human values, but I’ve been taught it via and through my religion. And because my day to day belief is “what does God want me to do” and “what does the Quran advise me to do”, and they’ve been drummed into me, how I came across on the show; how I deal with people, how I deal in my workplace, with my parents, with children, with everyone is shaped by my religion. So it’s everything.

 

If I could make the world understand or be aware of one thing it would be that Islam, as a religion, does not teach or encourage violence or hatred or divisions or terrorism. Like all religious scriptures, you can handpick quotations that do seem violent when they are seen as a standalone statement, but there is a context to everything and if you look at the overall picture of Islam and if you look at the majority 99% of Muslims in the world they are all equally as against terrorism as the average non-Muslim person.