Burkas are political symbols not Islamic ones, Muslim scholar says

Pauline Hanson’s recent burka stunt attracted criticism from both sides of Parliament, but a Muslim scholar and human rights adviser says it’s the garment itself that’s offensive.

Pauline Hanson sits in the Senate wearing a black burka.Dr Elham Manea says Pauline Hanson’s stunt raised an important issue.

Associate Professor Elham Manea, a Swiss-Yemeni citizen and the author of Women and Sharia Law, argues it is naïve — even racist — to regard the wearing of a burka as a sincere act of faith.

“The burka is not Islamic,” she told the Religion and Ethics Report.

“It’s a tradition that comes from the heart of Saudi Arabia, a region called Nejd.”

Dr Manea says the veiled garment was not worn by women outside of Nejd until Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi regime came to power in the late 1970s.

Attorney-General George Brandis addresses the Senate chamber on August 17, 2017.Senator Brandis was close to tears while criticising Senator Hanson’s stunt.

“The re-Islamisation of Saudi Arabia according to the Wahabi Salafi fundamentalist principles led to the mainstreaming of the burka,” she said.

“With Gulf money you had a promotion of this ideology and a reading of Islam that turned the burka into an ‘Islamic’ tradition.”

Criticising the burka, not the stunt

The Koran calls for both men and women to “cover and be modest”, but this reference is open to interpretation.

In Australia, few Muslim women wear burkas, though many wear other kinds of hijab or head coverings.

Dr Manea, a member of the University of Zurich’s political science institute and a former advisor to the Swiss government, believes conversations around the validity and religiosity of the burka are essential…

Also published on Fenixx.org

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