Student “shocked” at reactions to pretend conversion to Islam.

A student from Antwerp had planned to live as Muslim for a month. However, Silke Raats, who studies pharmaceutical laboratory technology at the Karel de Grote College of Higher Education in Hoboken stopped her experiment after just ten days. She told VRT News that "I was really shocked how people reacted. They just passed me by and didn’t say hello".

Silke is a white, Flemish student from a Catholic Background. The 21-year-old recently hatched a plan to carry out a social experiment. For a month she would pretended that she had converted to Islam and dressed accordingly.

She walked the streets of Antwerp wearing a headscarf and changed her lifestyle slightly. As she doesn’t drink and is a vegetarian, the dietary requirement didn’t pose too many problems. Silke learned an Islamic prayer and started to wear a headscarf and that was enough to convince all those around her that she had converted to Islam. The reactions from her fellow students shocked Silke.

“At college I was ignored by almost everyone. They thought that I was going to leave for Syria and wanted to bomb them”.

"A lot of people have an “us and them attitude”.This summer I went to help the refugees in the Maximiliaan Park and I got a lot of strange reactions to my doing that. "Watch out" they said, "they are all jihadi". To their mind wearing a headscarf was almost automatically the same as going to Syria”.

As social experiment Silke Raats decided to try and show the world that wearing a headscarf and Islamic extremism are not the same thing. She enlisted the help of a friend from Ghent University that is currently involved in a study about reactions to the kind of behaviour that deviates from the norm. One of example of this would be a white, Christian woman converting to Islam.

She changed her profile photo on Facebook and was soon inundated with questions. “They asked me if I had converted, if I had a relationship with a Muslim and if I realised that I’d never find a job."

“I had planned to make a film about my experiences, but as the reactions were so negative in the first few days I decided to stop after ten days”, the 21-year-old student told the daily ‘Gazet van Antwerpen’.

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