In her new book, Two Fat Ladies star Clarissa Dickson Wright says she felt like 'a complete outcast and a pariah' in her own country when she visited the city...
Celebrity chef Clarissa Dickson Wright has caused outrage after claiming that visiting a Muslim area of Leicester was ‘the most frightening experience of her life’.
Writing in her new book, Clarissa’s England, she said visiting the city — which has a large Asian population — made her feel like a 'pariah and an outcast in the middle of my own country.'
And when questioned on her description by a local newspaper, she fumed: 'I’m surprised any of the people who might object could read what I wrote as it is written in English.'
But the overweight chef adds that there’s an ‘upside’ to everything — and is at least thankful for the large number of Asian restaurants in the city.
Her description of the town has caused outrage.
The Two Fat Ladies chef dedicates a chapter of Clarissa’s England: A Gamely Gallop Through the English Counties to each county in England, to discussing their culinary, cultural and historical merits.
On Leicestershire, she writes of the city’s 'ghetto'.
She describes coming off the ring road to escape a traffic jam and becoming lost.
She wrote: 'I found myself in an area where all the men were wearing Islamic clothing and all the women were wearing burkas and walking slightly behind them.
'None of the men would talk to me when I tried to find out where I was and how to get out of there because I was an English female and they don’t talk to females they don’t know, while if the women could speak English they weren’t about to show it by having a word with me.
'I have many good acquaintances and even some friends among the Muslim community, yet here I was, in the heart of a city in the middle of my own country, a complete outcast and pariah.
'If multiculturalism works, which I have always been rather dubious of, surely it must be multicultural and not monocultural.
'However, everything has an upside and one of the results of this is that Leicester has a very good selection of Asian restaurants.
'I can only hope that in generations to come there will be a merging of the cultures and not the exclusion zone that is the ghetto.'
Ibrahim Mogra, assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, and a city imam, said: 'How can she judge an entire community on her one-off rare time of getting lost in Leicester?
The Two Fat Ladies chef dedicated a chapter of her new book to Leicestershire, where she wrote of the city's 'ghetto'
'I find it very hurtful to read because everybody is working so hard to create a peaceful and happy Leicester.
'It showed a complete lack of appreciation of the fact we are almost two million in this country, doing our bit for our country.
'When she says that she was in the 'centre of a city in the centre of her own country, I take objection. This is also my country and this is also my city.
'I would like to call on Leicester people to be even more welcoming and hospitable than we’ve been so far.'
Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby said: 'That is the sort of thing that makes me very angry — when someone breezes in from outside and paints a picture of Leicester that does not have any foundation in reality.
'It may help sell books but it is cheap.'
The book, which was published in September, claims to be 'as much an entertaining narrative as it is a travel companion'.
'Clarissa's England will amuse, enlighten, surprise and delight all those who read it,' reads the blurb.
When contacted by local newspaper The Leicester Mercury, the chef, who lives in Edinburgh, said: 'I’m surprised any of the people who might object could read what I wrote as it is written in English.
'When you get to 65, you will think back on this conversation and I think you might find yourself in my frame of mind.”
'Visiting Leicester scared me and I am not scared easy. It frightened me because it was part of my country that I was born in and there are a lot of radical Muslim preachers in this country.
'I was in London when the July 7 bomb attacks happened and this, to me, was proof for those people who have been saying we’re getting ghettoisation of Muslim areas.
'I have never believed that political correctness was a reason not to say what I have experienced.'
She said she had 'done a lot' for Leicestershire, campaigning for the protected geographical status of Melton pork pies and Stilton.
'THE EXCLUSION ZONE THAT IS THE GHETTO'
In her book Clarissa's England, the chef describes her visit to Leicester.
'I had one of the most frightening adventures of my life there. I turned off the ring road because there had been a car crash and I wanted to avoid being stuck in traffic, and soon found myself lost. I couldn't tell you where I was but it was not terribly far from the city centre.
'As we know, Leicester has a very high Asian Muslim population and I found myself in an area where all the men were wearing Islamic clothing and all the women were wearing burkas and walking slightly behind them.
'None of the men would talk to me when I tried to find out where I was and how to get out of there because I was an English female and they don't talk to females they don't know, while if the women could speak English they weren't about to show it by having a word with me.
'Eventually I had to stop at a newsagents and the only way I could discover my location was to buy a map of the city. Somebody, very reluctantly, pointed to where I was and then I had to work out the rest for myself.
'I am not a particular admirer of Islam or indeed, I should add, almost any other religion, but I have many good acquaintances and even some friends among the Muslim community, yet here I was in the heart of city in the middle of my own country a complete outcast and pariah.
'If multiculturalism works, which I have always been rather dubious of, surely it must be multicultural and not monocultural. I just wanted to relate this to you because I think you ought to be aware of such things.
'However, everything has an upside and one of the results of this is that Leicester has a very good selection of Asian restaurants where you can eat excellent curry.
'The city also has a thriving market attended by farmers from the local countryside and quite a number from the Asian community too, who sell not only herbs and spices and Asian vegetables but also delicious ready-made goods.
'So thinking back to the East End of London of my childhood, I can only hope that in generations to come there will be a merging of the cultures and not the exclusion zone that is the ghetto.'