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Why I disagree with the censorship of social media and the imposition of hijab

Updated Mar 20, 2017 02:45pm


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Pakistani representatives seem to be getting their ankle-length trousers into quite a few unseemly knots these days over unprecedented ‘slights’ against our battle-hardened culture.

Under attack (as it usually is from unseen forces and a stunted perception of the public profile), lawmakers look ready to redeem our social experiment of some 200 million very diverse and very culturally charitable people into a neat little package of pitiable purity.

Punjab’s education minister, Raza Ali Gillani, seems to think it is perfectly agreeable for him to project his questionable intellect onto millions of young women and men by proposing to make the hijab mandatory for young women in Punjab’s colleges.

To further honey trap these youngsters, he rounded off by offering a five percent grace bracket for attendance. I don’t know about you but that sounds like solicitation through suggested sanctimony. In other words, these outward patterns of piety would do well to serve worldly agendas. Hypocrisy much?

Oh, and never mind the fact that it is women who have been tasked with this duplicitous burden of phoney morality. Never mind that once again, it is a man who is gathering up the mantle of her bodily and spiritual regulation, and clogging it with sanctimonious quackery. Never mind that what he just said, he probably is not even free to practice in his home, with his own wife and daughters (keyboard warriors will have a field day with this one), much less the rest of Pakistan’s female populace.

The Punjab government was quick to leave Mr Gillani to his own, unique ‘charm offensive’ by disowning his rationale and rubbishing the claim that any such proposal was made. But the damage was done: this idea became public discourse, it became acceptable to perhaps think about the idea - whether to repel it or recognise it - and to have a conversation about it.

Let’s get one thing clear: there can be no communion on canonised constriction. There can be no debate on allegiance through aggression. There can be no talk about getting a woman to do something because a man has deemed it his higher authority to act as the patriarchal hand of God. No, there can be no conversation but that is what it has become.

News channels are having a field day, Facebook commentators are arguing about the necessity to either follow ‘the path’ or enter the 21st century and, here, we are burning our keyboards in the comments section down below. It’s become ‘a thing’ and all of a sudden it could become very real, very fast.

By lobbing together terms like ‘religion’, ‘ethics’, ‘culture’, and ‘forgetting’ that same culture, the minister did what many men do when they’re looking to gurney a galvanic kind of godliness onto the already impounded shoulders of our women - you know, the kind of thing they do when it becomes all about ‘shame’ and ‘honour’ when they kill them too.

After all, if our women don’t cover up, society as we know it will submerge into Dante’s ninth circle of hell. If they don’t control their flyaway wisps of heathen hair, all of civilisation will condense and collapse. I feel sorry for our boys who grow into young men under the fallacies of these ridiculous notions. Who actually adhere to the absurdity that is on pompous display by the likes of Mr Gillani. Time to end this conversation.

But Facebook, too, it seems, is counterfeiting our culture by forcing us to view 'objectionable' content, by converting our orgies of obedience into peepshows of profanity. Punjab’s home minister is also looking to get social media platforms disallowed instead of disavowing other more trivial things - like terrorists.

Alongside the Islamabad High Court (IHC) lies a petition that seeks to ban blasphemous content online - but there is a danger that the approach might be adopted by irresponsible actors to prosecute cases that may not fall in the realm of blasphemy.

It is fast becoming comfortable convention to seek solace in sanctimony when other more pressing issues are at hand. A revival of bomb attacks in Punjab? An unresolved word, such as the Panama leaks case? It seems that this matter is so critical in determining our national morale that even Interpol will be given a starring role in helping defeat the villain that is social media usage.

Funny how international agencies are seen as interfering and encroaching upon our sovereignty when we face real dangers like bloodied and decapitated bodies freshly squeezed by the simmering melting pot of assorted terror groups and the like.

Funny how culture is never really under attack when bombs and guns go off but always seems to be when people have an avenue for moderate opinion. And that’s what it is really about: moderate, diverging opinion. What really lies at the crux of this canting is the criticism, the demand for action and the displeasure voiced by many Pakistanis within the confines of fast choking online spaces, for that is the only space they have.

Culture, my fellow Pakistanis - we will never shun it nor disremember it but we may be able to evolve it. For ministers and religious extremists, hijabs and religious offence are where culture ceases and despotism develops.

For this motley crew of autocrats and aggressors, the culture that is the domain of every free man and woman becomes a primitive penitentiary for the practice of piety used by politicians and the clergy since time immemorial. That culture gave us wars, bombs and destruction.

Culture, real culture, gave us art, liberty and social standing. You choose. Which culture do you want to call your own?


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Reem Wasay is a former Op-ed Editor of Daily Times. She can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (47) Closed

Mohammad Baig Mar 20, 2017 11:49am

Which moderate culture by the way the nation has ,to welcome the corrupts and the looters and be quite as deaf and dumb.

aslam shaikh Mar 20, 2017 12:06pm

If moderate means following eastern moral values then it will always have a resistance

Usman Khan Mar 20, 2017 12:13pm

I think she needs to be more clearer about her views, whatever they are. To me she seems pretty much confused between religious and cultural extremism.

Saqib Ghummman Mar 20, 2017 12:56pm

A Culture of stone age...

fara Mar 20, 2017 12:54pm

@ USMAN KHAN : I second you.

ss Mar 20, 2017 12:59pm

very well written and, regrettably, so true.

Shehryar Mar 20, 2017 01:06pm

Ladies should not fear Hijab or a full scape dress, it is for their own honour dignity and respect.

satt Mar 20, 2017 01:36pm

A fearful society fears women and always is violent.

Annie Mar 20, 2017 01:57pm

It's not culture that's under threat. It's the patriarchal status quo that is under threat.

syedchaudhrygangadinkhan Mar 20, 2017 02:12pm

"Why is our culture always under threat when people have a moderate opinion?" Why make it mandatory? Leave it as an individual choice. After all, faith is a personal matter, isn't it?

rao Mar 20, 2017 02:32pm

@syedchaudhrygangadinkhan Well said

Sana Mar 20, 2017 02:37pm

@Shehryar don't you think "ladies" should have a choice

Ruben khan Mar 20, 2017 02:44pm

I take my hat off to you Reem for being so bold and saying it all.MODERATION that is the key word. if we could only practice culture and religion in moderation there's so much to be gained and nothing to loose.

Ahsen Saeed Mar 20, 2017 03:00pm

the improvement of moral ethical values is far more important but this does not start and end with hijab/ burka or beard. The more pressing issue is developing a well behaved society who respects others rights and abides by their responsibilities. The honesty, justice etc. Education to improve the whole nation even our less educated to have a full nation accepting the good and rejecting the bad is needed. Unfortunately Pakistanis are convicted of all sorts of heinous crimes world over and this is the biggest concern. This will not be fixed with Hijab only much more needs to be done.

Talha Maqsood Mar 20, 2017 03:01pm

People sometimes are pretty confusing, having a scarf doesn't stop you to be moderate and it certainly doesn't oppress woman. it should not be forced i agree but this was nothing to do with man higher authority you looks to be in inferiority complex of being woman. Covering woman head is not culture its teaching of ISLAM. Same like for men to walk with lowered eyes, do not mix teaching of ISLAM with culture. ISLAM is very moderate religion, first this minister confused the public by forcing hijab second you are mixing it with culture and man oppression of being higher authority.

TAriq Mar 20, 2017 03:13pm

There is NO harm in encouraging people for doing GOOD. Why we always reacts in such a absurd manner when it came to Hijab or any other issues related to female. Be Patient and gentle and just sensible. There is no need to panic.

Ali S Mar 20, 2017 03:52pm

I took me 8 years of living in Pakistan to realize this, but I've come to the conclusion that our leaders - military and civilian, both - actually consider the population to be easily manipulated pawns (which, given our disastrous education system, most are) who can be kept busy with side-show distractions of exhibitionist religious piety and muscle flexing while they're busy plundering and holding on to power without actually producing any tangible results. It's disgusting, sickening and worst of all, the public (especially conservative middle-class types) lap it up delightfully.

harris Mar 20, 2017 03:58pm

There is no compulsion in Islam, let people believe and practice what they want.

Indian Mar 20, 2017 04:12pm

@Shehryar ............. Evidently, the problem is with MEN and so its MEN who should take preventive measures. .......... Those MEN who can not control their ANIMAL INSTINCT should look down onto their feet when they see women. ................ WOMEN should not be punished for the problems of MEN.

Simba Mar 20, 2017 04:25pm

good article by Reem Wasay

Ijaz Mar 20, 2017 04:27pm

@Shehryar That is your opinion. Why don't you wear it then?

BK Mar 20, 2017 04:36pm

@Shehryar Why should men tell women about what's honour, dignity and respect? Aren't women capable of deciding on their own? Or is it because some men consider women as sub-human?

SKS Mar 20, 2017 04:44pm

In any other part of civilised world this would have been a no brainer with the minister sacked, but in Pakistan........

Faisal Mar 20, 2017 05:16pm

Great write up Reem. We need more sane voices like yours.

waqar Mar 20, 2017 06:16pm

Dont confuse the readers with fancy words like moral / eastern values etc. The ONLY reason to have a separate nation was the implementation of Islamic values on state level. Your constitution guarantees that role for the state. Therefore, those who oppose state interference in this regard should go to the assemblies and get this role omitted.

Hassan Hemani Mar 20, 2017 06:12pm

Culture aside, what religion has told us especially women that they should cover their head. Now we look in a society where we see the woman covering her head a extremist! And the ones who don't are liberals. Way to go society.

Usman Mar 20, 2017 06:16pm

@Sana taking birth into a Muslim Family wasn't your choice, but yes, chosing hijab as dress is your choice, but please study and understand the religion forced over you by birth before making choices, no offence but a suggestion

KHAN Mar 20, 2017 06:29pm

Hijab is just an Arab way of dressing, and it has nothing to do with Islam.

BABAR Mar 20, 2017 07:22pm

Women should have there own choice whether they want to wear hijab or they dont . shouldn't make it mandatory for no one .

Baba Farid Mar 20, 2017 07:26pm

Absolutely beautiful!

NKhan Mar 20, 2017 07:30pm

@Shehryar Maybe you are right. But ladies should have the choice to make that decision themselves.

talat Mar 20, 2017 07:55pm

Good job

Asif A Shah Mar 20, 2017 08:41pm

No culture is static. Educated Pakistani women have no choice but to be affected by the values of leading international culture premised on the fact that men and women must enjoy equal rights. I, also, wonder how come the Punjab Education Minister is so much out of touch with the rest of the world.

Ahmer Mar 21, 2017 03:01am

@Usman Khan Incorrect. I think she has clearly outlined our insecurities disguised as cultural norms.

Rajesh Mar 21, 2017 05:12am

@Mohammad Baig Exactly what Indian history is full of. The looters and corrupt ran the culture for centuries and the deaf and dumb are the ones who survived. I can relate to your pain.

Raja Islam Mar 21, 2017 05:27am

Hijab is part of the Middle Eastern culture and has nothing to do with religion or Pakistan. If someone wants to wear it then fine but no one should encourage or discourage the kind of dress a person wants to wear. State's interference in personal liberties.

Raja Islam Mar 21, 2017 05:30am

@Shehryar Really. What makes you believe that?

joynul Mar 21, 2017 08:49am

@Shehryar you are right

joynul Mar 21, 2017 08:50am

@Sana ask europe.

Ranjit Haripur Mar 21, 2017 09:33am

Just brilliant.

Mmq Mar 21, 2017 09:38am

@Ali S , you nailed it bro!

Aaron Parayil Mar 21, 2017 10:37am

Hats of to this writer for expressing the truth so openly. Greetings from an Indian.

asif Ali Mar 21, 2017 10:56am

"Healthcare needs a warning label" or head scarf?

MAK Mar 21, 2017 03:12pm

Forceful & candid approach to a sensitive matter. The choice of words is perfect in tackling the domain where many intellectual & wise dread to venture.Prose may be a bit too high for many to comprehend, I fully agree with the views 'I think'.

Sara Mar 22, 2017 09:58am

Hijab for women and Manjab for men. Both women and men should cover their heads. Now that's equality.

Jamal Mar 22, 2017 10:49am

Assalamoalaikum, There is no moderate way to live. If you are a Muslim, Be and live Muslim. Please realize that a women can do everything if she wears Hijab. I can't see any problem in that. Arguing on this issue is useless. Ladies ! prove yourselves by wearing Hijab that you can excel since there is nothing to do with hijab on your face. Its your skill set and your mind and your will, please don't take it as a "hijab on your brain". its for your face and body only, which as a Muslim one should cover. Accept it or not but IT IS. Do not criticize it but feel it and think it over once, that a cover on your face, will it make you unable to perform ? I think your answer will be a big NO. So start wearing hijab and do what you do daily, normally. Cheers.

Latif khan Mar 22, 2017 11:10pm

@Shehryar 100% right