Last week an Arab ambassador to Dubai had his marriage annulled because, under her demure Islamic clothing, his new bride turned out to be both bearded and boss-eyed. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. The bride’s mother is thought to have shown the bridegroom-to-be pictures of the bride’s less hirsute, more straight-gazed sister prior to the marriage and apparently the gentleman in question was extremely disappointed when he found that he’d joined in matrimony with a woman who didn’t need to shave just her legs regularly.
Also in the news last week was the decree, decreed by those who decree what is and isn’t acceptable under Islamic law, that Muslims cannot go anywhere near those new ‘See Me Naked’ body scanners.
Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. That’s going to go down well with all those at Heathrow who, simply because they aren’t Muslim, have to endure the indignity of being seen in all their (largely) hideous nude glory as they get the once-over by the man staring at them in their birthday suits via the body-scanner.
Much has been said in the media recently on whether the burqa and other swathing garments worn by Islamic women in the UK could be seen as badges of a faith hostile to Britannia and as such could be interpreted as symbols of a deepening cultural divide. Such mutterings about banning the burqa, giving the hijab the old heave-ho and saying no to the niqab in the UK have given me pause for thought. Hmmmm, I pondered, hmmmm …
My pondering began in the glee of Christmas when I found myself the proud recipient of something called a Snood. I was immediately forcibly wrestled into it, to cries of “It’s a Snood! Put it on!”
“Pull this bit over your head!” they instructed, as they pulled that bit over my head.
“Pull this bit up here!” they urged, as they pulled that bit up there.
“Tug this bit over your shoulders to keep your back warm!” they cooed, as they tugged that bit over my shoulders to keep my back warm.
“There!” they said, standing back triumphantly, “that’s cosy, isn’t it?”
I was bundled to the mirror to admire myself, with only my rheumy eyes visible through the slit left in the cleverly folded Snood. “Mmmmm,” I mumbled, “it’s certainly draught-proof.” Truth be told, to my unfashionable eyes it looked like I was wearing a niqab. And as a beat of my heart skipped, I knew with a leaden certainty that I had not looked this good for years.
“Ooooh! It looks like you’re wearing one of those thingies!” continued the amateur stylists; “Ooooh! Don’t wear it like that when you go out!” they shrilled. And I had to promise that I wouldn’t wear it like ‘that’ when I went out because it looked like I was wearing ‘one of those thingies’. But, privately, I was gripped by the realisation that I looked a lot better covered up than I do uncovered and I was almost prepared to argue that point. Instead, I sat for a while wearing the expertly-folded Snood and I pondered why it was that I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing my Snood fashioned thus to the shops.
I knew I couldn’t wear my Snood fashioned thus because, fashioned thus, it looked like a garment which could easily be interpreted by the cashier at my local Co-op as being an overt badge of faith hostile to Britannia and a symbol of a deepening cultural divide. Bugger, I thought to myself, that’s a shame.
The 21st Century Snood, it appears, was the fashion press’s 2009 hottest tip as the ‘Winter season’s must-have’. Tat-News-darlings such as Cheryl Cole and Lady GaGa were rumoured to be ardent fans of this ‘versatile’ scarf/hood hybrid. For past-it biddies such as I, the Snood is perfect for keeping a craggy neck warm on a chilly day and, should an icy wind get up, for pulling snugly around multiple chins. It is apparently also the ideal gift for an unattractive woman who knows she will never again turn a bloke’s head, unless the man is averting his gaze. It probably keeps one’s hearing-aid dry too.
Yet I continued to ponder. Why stop at the Snood? Why isn’t a burqa the ideal garment for all squat, thick-waisted, frog-faced women? Why shouldn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ shroud be a legitimate ‘fashion-statement’ for those of us who haven’t been inside a gym since before they started skipping ‘Phys Ed’ in the early 70s?
How come banning the burqa ends up being discussed on Question Time when it would be far easier to diffuse its divisive potential by embracing it as a bloody good Fashion-idea? If the word hijack wasn’t so contentious, I’d suggest that the fashion-world hijack the burqaniqabhijab and take it out of circulation as a badge of a faith hostile to Britannia, ‘re-invent’ it as an everyday garment for women in the horrific grip of a bad-hair-day and make it acceptable for every woman to wear it if they so wished.
Fashion is a very powerful force. In the last 15 years alone, perfectly lovely girls have been persuaded to make their legs look short and dumpy by wearing de-rigeur low-waisted jeans. Recently we have seen dresses worn with jeans (maybe to cover the short legs and unsightly muffin-tops), undies worn as outies, ghastly/garish/gold gladiator sandals, shin-shortening shoe-boots and women of all ages forgoing all taste and judgement to wear recycled 70s swirl prints in pukish colours and static-inducing nylon, clinging to midriff bulges and glowing in the dark. That’s how powerful Fashion is.
If the burqa became a mainstream fashion garment, tomorrow’s Susan Boyle could turf up on the Britain’s Got Talent stage wearing one and wouldn’t have the piss ripped out of her for being 48, fuzzy-faced and a bit portly. There would be no face-pulling from the smug judges, no derisive jeering from the audience and no tabloid headlines trumpeting the arrival of the ‘Hairy Angel’. I’d wager that Piers Morgan, Amanda Holden & Simon Cowell would look at her shrouded form, listen to her voice and judge her to be an OK singer. Maybe they’d even put her through to the next round, maybe not.
If the burqa became a mainstream fashion garment then it could not be assumed that the woman wearing one was necessarily Muslim. That’d start a lot of interesting conversations at body-scanner time, wouldn’t it? They’d have to scan everyone or no-one.
If the burqa became a mainstream fashion garment then lazy mums could stay in their PJs and amble into Tesco to get their fags and their Turkey Twizzlers – as long as they were wearing a burqa over the top.
If the burqa became a mainstream fashion garment then old, ugly or just plain bonkers women could wear them and I’d love it. I’d love to waft into my beloved Co-op wearing a head-to-toe shroud , being as I am old, ugly and bonkers.
If the burqa became a mainstream fashion garment then it could be made out of any fabric, such as a nice cowboy print, a jolly Mickey Mouse motif, a sexy wet-look PVC, a cheery pink gingham or even a camouflage design; chinzy florals might be nice for the WI, crisp pinstripes would be ideal for those career-women bobbing near the glass ceiling … and the possibilities for the tubby bride are endless.
Lawks-a- Lordy, if Myleene Klass had been shoved into one for M&S’s Xmas ad campaign then the rest of middle-England’s thick-middled dumplings would also have been staring at The Snoods they had opened on 25th December 2009 and wondering, as I am, if they could make the jump from bobble-hat to Snood or whether to hide the thing quietly away in the ‘Charity Shop’ pile, alongside the revolving spaghetti fork ….