A few weeks ago I was in Best & Less buying Remy some baby tracksuit pants. Good times.
As I walked past the cash register on my way into the store, I noticed three Muslim women in full burqa like in this photo. They were totally covered, with just slits for their eyes….
I won’t pretend it wasn’t surprising. It was. There were several reasons for this, not all of them fair or rational. Firstly, because I couldn’t see their faces which somehow feels sinister even if it’s not. Secondly, because I can’t help but feel that these women are repressed and controlled by a faith that doesn’t allow them the simple liberty of breathing unencumbered by thick fabric. Or allow them to feel the air and sunlight on their faces.
As the women paid for their purchase and moved off into the shopping centre, I overheard a snatch of conversation between the next customer and the sales assistant who had just served them. “Wow, that’s a bit full-on, isn’t it” said the customer, gesturing to the Muslim women who were now out of ear shot. “Yeah” replied the sales assistant. “Whenever they come in here like that I’m worried they’re going to blow me up!”
I winced when I heard this but it was simply a clumsy articulation of my own discomfort. For me, it wasn’t about the likelihood of a bomb under the burqa and all the racist cliches implicit in that idea but seeing women in full burqa did make me uncomfEdit HTMLortable as a woman, a feminist, a westerner.