With the burqa - the head and face veil worn by some Muslim women - causing a stir in the West, several misconceptions have circulated concerning the garment. 

Associate Professor Elham Manea, a Swiss-Yemeni Muslim scholar and human rights adviser, has recently decided to set the facts straight on the matter. 

Speaking to ABC's radio program "Religion and Ethics Report," Dr. Manea said that the burqa is a political symbol, rather than a religious requirement.

"The burqa is not Islamic," said the member of the University of Zurich's political science institute and former Swiss government adviser.

According to Dr. Manea, the tradition originated from the region of Nejd in central Saudi Arabia.

Dr. Manea said that women outside of Nejd only began wearing the burqa after the Wahabi leadership took over the kingdom in the late 1970s.

"The re-Islamisation of Saudi Arabia according to the Wahabi Salafi fundamentalist principles led to the mainstreaming of the burka," she explained, adding that the tradition was afterward passed off as an Islamic requirement.

"With Gulf money you had a promotion of this ideology and a reading of Islam that turned the burka into an 'Islamic' tradition."

Muslim scholar Elham Manea
Dr. Elham Manea Source: Elham-manea.com

"To tell me that by talking about the burka we are hurting the feelings of the Muslims is not only inaccurate, with all due respect, it's almost racist," she said, describing the garment as "a sign of segregation, separation, rejection of the values we see all around us - values of acceptance and tolerance and otherness."

She conceded that the face veil promotes "a culture that treats [a] woman as a sexualised object that has to be covered."

Dr. Manea certainly is not the first scholar to argue against the burqa. 

Dr. Raihan Ismail, a lecturer in Middle East Politics and Islamic Studies at the Australian National University, has previously clarified a few points about the controversial face veil. 

"The Koran does not explicitly say you have to cover yourself in this manner," she told ABC News Australia. "Some scholars argue that it is a religious obligation, particularly the more conservative factions within the Muslim world. There are many variations and interpretations."

The 31st verse in Surat An-Nur mandates that women ought to cover their "adornments except that which [necessarily] appears" around men in general, except the men they are directly related to like fathers, brothers and uncles. The verse also commands women to "wrap [a portion of] their headcovers over their chests". 

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The burqa has been the center of controversy in recent years, with several countries introducing a ban on the garment, which is believed to pose a security threat as it conceals its wearer's identity. 

France was the first country in Europe to ban the face veil in public places. Several countries, including Chad, Bulgaria, Belgium and the Netherlands, followed suit and implemented similar bans.