Senator Pauline Hanson donning a burqa in the senate yesterday was hilarious. As an Australian Muslim woman, I laughed. I laughed so much that my stomach muscles felt as though they had just endured an extreme ab workout.
But then a sobering thought crossed my mind: I, along with many others, had also laughed at Donald Trump.
The thought that Trump could be the leader of the ‘free world’ was once laughable. Today it is a reality, the repercussions of which recently veered their ugly head in Charlottesville. Australia has already seen its Charlottesville in the Cronulla Riots. But if this sort of behaviour in the Federal Parliament of our nation goes unchecked, we can be sure to see far worse.
As a Muslim woman, I am not a proponent of the niqab (or burqa) – a headdress which covers the face of the person wearing it. As a woman of Afghan heritage, I know that the Taliban’s imposition of the burqa was detested fiercely by most of my countrywomen.
As a lay Muslim, I believe that the idea of hijab is to dress modestly. And I know that the concept of modesty means different things to different people. In a country where niqab is the accepted dress code, dressing modestly would carry a completely different meaning than in Australia. However, this isn’t Senator Hanson’s rationale. Senator Hanson’s burqa antic is just another attack on Australian Muslims, with the hope that such jabs will eventually knock them down and out.
Senator Hanson and I may agree on the non-essential nature of the niqab in Australia. But Senator Hanson does not speak for Australian Muslims like me who are avidly against the niqab, but choose to respect the rights of Australian women to dress how they wish.
Women don’t need Senator Hanson or the Taliban telling them how to dress. The sad thing is that Senator Hanson is an elected member of the Australian Parliament, with a constituency and a hefty following. Her disrespect for those who believe differently than her is astounding. And she seems determined to suppress, hassle and discriminate against the minority of the day. This political stunt - though amusing - was another such attempt.
It is a tiny minority of Australian Muslim women who wear the niqab. I recently had the honour of getting to know a wonderful woman who wears a niqab and lives in Hobart, Tasmania. Hearing about the daily hatred and abuse she endures, mostly in the presence of her two young sons, broke my heart. No human should be subject to hate simply for the way they choose to dress.
This family are only in Australia temporarily, they are essentially guests here. I fear for those two young boys who watch their mother being treated with hatred and disdain here. What image of Australia will the daily hate they witness (or the poisonous rhetoric they hear) invoke in their minds?
LISTEN: Susan Carland is a Muslim woman. And a feminist. She explains how on No Filter (post continues after audio...)
We talk about radicalisation being a Muslim problem. But it is a global problem, which sees no religious or geographical boundaries. And it is fuelled by the hate, actions and words such as those of Senator Hanson’s. Charlottesville has given us another reminder of this.
Senator George Brandis mentioned in his impassioned response to Senator Hanson that it is vital for Australian intelligence and law enforcement to “work cooperatively with the Muslim community".
Senator Hanson has no such intention, she has made it clear time and time again that Islam does not belong in Australia, despite its rich and fruitful history in Australia, dating back to at least the 1600s, from the Indonesian Makassans to the Afghan Cameleers and many great examples in modern Australia today.
I wish Senator Pauline Hanson would take the time out to meet with Muslims. Muslims for Progressive Values Australia holds ‘Meet a Muslim’ events nationally.
Pauline, come over, let’s have a chat.
Halal and non-halal certified refreshments will surely be on offer for your enjoyment.
Mina Zaki is a mother of three with a background in Law, Politics and International Relations.