Under the Burqa

Hope at Primark Marble Arch – Oxford Street, London, 7 November 2013
Outside Primark Marble Arch there is a window ledge, where people sit after they have done their shopping. They sit there with their bags of acquisitions from Primark. Presumably they need the rest, after all that activity, before they get onto the next phase, whatever that might be.
The ledge.
A large proportion of the women who sit there are Muslims. And among them, a fair proportion are covered completely, apart from their eyes, in a black burqa.
Unfortunately, so far, I have not felt bold enough to get a picture of a woman in a burqa sitting with her bags of shiny new clothes – I have seen them but they tend to sit in a corner, where it is difficult to get a picture without being intrusive.
Always a number of Muslim women sitting there. The inevitable smartphone.
There is though a terrific photo of a veiled woman sitting outside Primark Marble Arch by ‘Roll the Dice’ on Flickr.
Also on Flickr, a picture by Alex Segre, taken inside Primark, shows two women in burqas looking at bras, bras that have a label, rather poignantly, that says, ‘Make an Impact!’
But the burqa’d women will be buying more than bras, either that or buying a great many of them, for their shopping bags tend to be full and numerous.
Which raises an interesting image. All these women, selecting and buying colourful and fashionable clothes, that they wear under their burqa so pretty-well no one will ever see.
In some ways that is no different to a western woman buying frilly and colourful underwear, for not many people will see that either, but it makes the woman feel good about herself to be wearing it; in some ways a woman in a burqa under which she is wearing a brightly-coloured pullover with pictures of reindeer and fir trees is no different to that at all, but in other ways it is. In other ways it is the woman saying bugger this religion rubbish, under this veil of convention I am as vain and consumerist as the next person.
I find this comforting, if true, it seems to hold out great hope for the future.

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