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’.