Shazia Mirza joins BBC's next Pilgrimage | Retracing the steps of 6th Century monk St Columba © BBC/CTVC

Shazia Mirza joins BBC's next Pilgrimage

Retracing the steps of 6th Century monk St Columba

Shazia Mirza is to follow in the footsteps of 6th Century Irish monk St Columba in the next series of BBC Two’s Pilgrimage.

The Muslim comic is one of seven celebrities of differing faiths following in the footsteps of a man who helped spread Christianity from Ireland to Scotland.

Their 1,000-mile route starts in Donegal, goes through Northern Ireland and into western Scotland, towards the Highlands  and on to the Hebridean Isle of Lewis and Harris before reaching Iona, a tiny island in the Inner Hebrides.

Mirza said of her faith: ‘Growing up there were things that were prescribed to me by my family and my culture and my religion. Obviously, you’re going to rebel against that if you’re hearing it 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all your life.

‘I believe in God. I believe in Allah. I’m Muslim. But just because you believe in Islam doesn’t mean you practice it. I’ve read the Qur-an, the Bible, the Torah… I’ve read a lot of holy books and I have questions about them all – you can’t just believe in all of it. 

‘I hope that going on this pilgrimage elevates me to a higher level of being myself.’

The other celebrities taking part are  interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who describes himself as a non-conforming pagan; England cricketing legend, Monty Panesar, a practising Sikh; actress, Louisa Clein, who is Jewish; TV personality Nick Hewer, an agnostic with Catholic roots; social media influencer, Scarlett Moffatt, a Christian; and Paralympian, Will Bayley,– a lapsed Christian. 

Hewer said: ‘I’m doing the Pilgrimage because I’m very curious and I want to know whether what the others believe in is genuine and how they got there and am I missing out on something?

‘I’d hate to think, at the age of 77 with only a few more years left, whether I'm actually, short-changing myself.  My greatest fear is the walking... I want to do it in the right spirit because like so many old men, I can be awkward, sometimes..."

Pilgrimage: The Road to the Scottish Isles is the fourth in the BBC religious series, with Ed Byrne, Stephen K Amos and Katy Brand  among those taking part in previous treks.

The third series, Pilgrimage: The Road to Istanbul, which featured Dom Joly and Father Ted star Pauline McLynn among others, reached around 2 million viewers when it launched in April 2020.

The three hour-long episodes have been made be CTVC, whose chief executive Caroline Matthews said: ‘I’m incredibly proud of this series and for the conversations around faith between our celebrity pilgrims.  It’s truly fascinating to watch and I hope those conversations will extend to our audience, regardless of their religious beliefs’

Published: 25 Feb 2022

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