Video Transcript by Jeremy Boulter
Jenny Brockie: OK. Uthman, how do you see the burqa. I mean do you see it as an absolutely…?
Amina Ghafoor: I don’t think there is such a thing as a non-practicing Muslim.
Uthman Badar: I think ahh I think er that Mr Myard, in the beginning, his comments were quite indicative particularly because in France he has been banned; for us in Australia discussions are more at the beginning stage; ahh I think ahh the issue of the niqab is not, I’ll posit, an issue about the niqab itself; it comes in the context where all things Islamic in the west have increasingly come under the spotlight: we are talking about mosques, masjids, the teaching of the Quran in schools, halal food and so on and so forth: Muslim loyalties; We’ve had debates .. a debate a few years ago, so it’s not about the cloth but what it represents in terms of Islam itself and the Islamic revival, and this is where I bring, I think, Tanveer’s comments; I think .. I think he’s the one who’s giving it a western ahh interpretation .. but what we see is Islamic revival on the global stage; and so basically it has been said before .. Tony Blair in 2006 .. he said the full faced veil is a mark of separation; and he went further to very importantly, I think, say ahh .. well indicatively any way .. that there was a need not only to debate the full face veil, but the place of Islam and how it fits into the modern world. So for me it .. for us.. it’s very clearly a .. a .. an .. expression of values .. of differing values .. [and the whole question of integration.]
Jenny Brockie: [Now can I ask you] the same question I asked Sheikh Omar originally because you’re from an Islamic political group which has been banned in some other countries and I just wonder whether you think the burqa and the niqab are central to being a Muslim woman. Do you do you think the wearing of these garments is central to being a Mu .. Muslim woman?
Uthman Badar: Ahh ahh that’s an interesting question, but ahh from the Islamic perspective it’s important to understand that Islam is vast in the sense that ahh it allows for difference of opinion and a thing can be Islamic even though there, are different opinions; so the niqab is certainly Islamic even though there are opinions which say it’s obligatory [or not]
Jenny Brockie: [So is] there freedom for women to not wear it if they’re Muslim?
Uthman Badar: There .. [there]
Jenny Brockie: [No but] but .. but .. [I’m .. I’m asking]
Uthman Badar: [When we talk about] We talk about freedom, Jenny, there is there is a very important distinction between law and fact, de facto and de jure, as in the western law [xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx].
Jenny Brockie: [Yeah, but I want you to answer from] your perspective, from your group ..
Uthman Badar: Yeah, [xxxxxxxxxxxxx…]
Jenny Brockie: [As one] Islamic group, do you think it is central to being a Muslim woman to cover your face like this? Is it central?
Uthman Badar: Wha .. What I am saying is the word “central” i .. i .. i .. is .. is not [adequate…]
Jenny Brockie: [But do you think] women should …
Uthman Badar: The point is that Islam has some rules and it says that the hijab is obligatory on everyone ..
Man:Why can’t you answer the question straight? I’ve heard the question being asked 5 times! Why can’t you answer it?
Uthman Badar: [I’m answering the question ..]
Man: [(continues talking indistinctly about answering the question)]
Uthman Badar: [You are asking it from a western premise. ]
Ruby Hamad: [The point is ..]
Uthman Badar: [Now the problem is you … (words get swamped)]
Generally: [(Many voices talking over each other)]
Jenny Brockie: [Ruby I .. Ruby .. OK, Ruby, what do you want you say? OK, one at a time… Ruby! Ruby!]
Jenny Brockie: Yeah, Ruby
Ruby Ahmad: I think some people, some men from the more ex .. [extreme right .. the]
Generally: [(Many voices murmur] [ .. and murmur)]
Jenny Brockie: [OK. Can I ask you to be quiet for a second.]
Ruby Ahmad: extreme side of Islam do think it is central for women but they want it to come across as if the women you know are doing it totally by choice so that the men will never .. can we .. this word choice has been bandied around a lot tonight .. can we just discuss the context of the choice this choice that women are made to wear the burqa; it is a patriarchal symbol; it was .. it was around before Islam; for the first 200 years of Islam Muslim women were not required to wear the burqa .. for 200 years they were not required to be veiled, OK, but as Islam spread it absorbed the patriarchal er traditions of the countries it spread into. The burqa, the veil, whatever you want to call it, is one of is one of those. The reason women ..
Woman’s voice: Prove it!
Ruby Ahmad: no, this is history; you have .. you have to .. if you read history books [besides the Quran .. let me finish!]
Voices male and female: [(overlap and] [intervene)]
Jenny Brockie: [Let her finish!]
Ruby Ahmad: OK, it was a cultural symbol absorbed by Islam and for hundreds of years scholars have been using religion to as an exc xxcuse to keep women covered up; in a patriarchal society women are viewed as sexual beings that are there to tempt men into immorality and the reason I am covered up is so that they don’t tempt ..
Female voices:[(indistinct murmuring cover her last words)]
Ruby Ahmad: [no, that’s absolutely true.]
Jenny Brockie: [OK, can I get a quick word] A quick word from [Ahmad].
Ahmad Saghir: [That is not history], that’s not history at all; [that’s not true; stop making up stories!]
Other voices: [(Indistinct verbalizations)]
Jenny Brockie: [One at a time.. one at a time ..] Yes.
Khadija al Khaddour: I used to wear the niqab.
Jenny Brockie: Sheikh Omar can you just wait a moment and let this lady speak?
Khadija al Khaddour: I wore the niqab for 4 years. I’m a seventh generation Australian. My mother is a 6th generation Australian; she grew up with Christian values. She converted to Islam in the early seventies. My mother now wears the niqab. She chose to wear the niqab.
Ruby Ahmad: I’m talking about people .. [women .. I’m talking about history]
Khadija al Khaddour: [Now. I grew up ..] I grew up and I decided to choose the niqab at a stage in [my life]
Ruby Ahmad: [But why?]
Khadija al Khaddour: on my spiritual journey; I decided at a time of my life .. [the thing is it’s a choice in Islam ..]
Ruby Ahmad: (leans forward intensely)[The essential question that no one] is [answering is (words become indistinct) .. why? What function does it serve?]
Khadija al Khaddour: [Will you let me talk? Could you please give me the opportunity to speak? Why xxxxx let other people xxxxxxxx] (gives up talking and looks away.)
Jenny Brockie: [OK. One at .. one at a time]
Sibel Bennet: Does it matter why?
Ruby Ahmad: Of course it matters. No, I mean what I am [saying ..]
Sibel Bennet: [Why] do you wear what you wear?
Ruby Ahmad: Well because I’m…[xxxxxxxxxxxxx]
Sibel Bennet: [Why do you wear] what you wear?
Man: Why does he wear a suit?
Sibel Bennet: Exactly.
Generally: [xxxxxx xxxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxxx xxxxxxx]
Jenny Brockie: [Alright. OK, Cory Bernadi ha ha .. OK, OK, everybody we can’t hear anyone: Sheikh Omran? Sorry, everyone, please! Now, time out .. time out. Right.] Sheikh Omran!
Sheikh Mohammad Omran: Please. We didn’t say we refuse to answer; two of them, they have said I refused to answer, he refused to .. no, we don’t refuse to answer the question. The question is there anyhow in any book as you ma .. mashallah studying the deen and the history of Islam; you should know the answer yourself, but the answer is not required here; we are not here debating a xxxxxxxxxxxx .. er er a fihqi issue .. a sharia issue: is it sunnah? Or it is compulsory or it is not compulsory; that matter should be decided somewhere else, not here. We are not the people ..
Sheikh Mohammad Omran: No excuse me.
Man: I think you guys misunderstood the question, she never asked ..
Jenny Brockie: I’m just asking if you think women should wear it, Sheikh Omran. That’s all I’m asking. Should women wear..
Sheikh Mohammad Omran: No you didn’t say that, say distinction
Jenny Brockie: No. I did say that..
Sheikh Mohammad Omran: You said distinction over Islam in [general xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx]
Generally: [(several people talk at the same time and cover the words of Sheikh Omran)]
Jenny Brockie: [I was just trying to get it a clear answer from you as to whether you] think that women should wear the burqa.
Sheikh Mohammad Omran: Well, that’s up to them. I told you that. I answered that question.