Muslim undies shop attacked

Birmingham’s first Muslim lingerie shop has been targeted in a hate attack – for looking too much like a “porn parlour”.

Sister’s Secrets in Balsall Heath was petrol-bombed just days after opening last week.

The arrival of the store on Taunton Street has angered Muslim traditionalists who are suspicious about its blacked-out windows, alarmed door and suggestive name.

Its strict women-only policy has also heightened fears that it could be an adult shop selling porn and sex toys.

One local said last night: “I don’t have a problem with a shop that sells underwear like Marks and Spencer.

“But this looks like a seedy porn parlour. A lot of local Muslims are upset because they can’t see what’s inside.

“Some women who’ve gone in say it sells very sexy underwear, lacy basques and thongs in all kinds of colours.

“One or two think that in itself is degrading to Muslim women.”

Birmingham Central Mosque, which does not object to the shop, confirmed it had been inundated with complaints.

“We have received complaints that certain individuals believe the public may mistake the lingerie store for a sex shop because of how it’s portrayed,” said a spokesman.

“This may not reflect positively on the sisters who are visiting this store.”

Last night owner Umm Zakariah, 31, from Balsall Heath – a Muslim who wears the traditional veil and full-length gown in public – vowed the attack would not drive her out of business.

“We’re not sure exactly what was thrown because it happened in the middle of the night,” she said. “But we think it was probably a petrol bomb. It was thrown at the shop’s sign which bears our name, Sisters Secrets. This makes us think that tradition-alists rather than younger folk were responsible.

“It cost us £300 to put up a new one, this time with the name La Femme. I’m still keeping the original name for marketing purposes, though.”

She vowed that the attack would not deter her from carrying on the lingerie trade.

“The shop is for all women,” she said. “Yes, it’s run by Muslims and most of our customers are Muslims but all women are welcome.

“We’ve had black and white women coming in to have a look. The windows are blacked out because we want to keep an air of mystery about what’s inside.

“All I’m doing is providing a much-needed service. My husband and I went to Syria recently and I wanted to buy some underwear but all the shops were run by men.

“In the ordinary underwear shops in Birmingham there are always male customers about. Most women choosing lingerie would prefer some privacy.

“And most would prefer to give their measurements to a female assistant rather than a man. A lot of women, most of them Muslim, have told us they love the shop.”


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
ic Birmingham, UK
July 4, 2004
Jeanette Oldham, Sunday Mercury
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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday July 6, 2004.
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