Anti-Islamic slogans should not be allowed on International Women’s Day, Qadri writes to PM Imran
Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri has written a letter to Prime Minister Imran Khan saying that anti-Islamic slogans should not be raised on International Women's Day, which is celebrated across the world on March 8.
The minister has also suggested celebrating International Hijab Day instead on March 8, in an effort to express solidarity with Muslim women across the globe.
In a letter to the prime minister dated Feb 9, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the minister said International Women's Day was celebrated on March 8 every year since the International Women's Year was first recognised by the United Nations in 1975.
He said that rallies were organised worldwide and programmes were held in an effort to eradicate societal injustice against women and to ensure they get their due rights.
Qadri pointed out that in Pakistan, a campaign was being organised under the banner of Aurat March which sought to highlight issues being faced by women.
"But the kind of placards, banners and slogans raised during the march portray as if the issue is with societal norms underlined in Islam more than women's rights,” he said.
The minister said Pakistan was a Muslim country and a majority of society wished to live their lives according to the teachings of Islam. He added that Islam was a complete code of life for which there was no other alternate.
"Any group, under the banner of Aurat March or any other title, on the occasion of upcoming International Women's Day on March 8, should not be allowed to ridicule Islamic values, societal norms, hijab or modesty as such acts hurt the sentiments of Muslims in the country," he said.
He requested the prime minister to observe "International Hijab Day" on March 8, in an effort to express solidarity with Muslim women across the globe who had to struggle for religious independence and basic human rights.
Qadri said that observing International Hijab Day would help draw the attention of the global community, including the United Nations, towards the treatment of Muslim women and students in neighbouring India and Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
He urged the premier to use the occasion to call on the international community to put an end to India's treatment of Muslims in an effort to protect their religious freedom.
The minister concluded his letter by saying that programmes should be organised at a federal and provincial level to observe International Hijab Day. He added that the religious affairs ministry and the information ministry should be directed to draw up a strategy in this regard.
Sherry Rehman calls Qadri’s letter 'concerning'
Meanwhile, Senator Sherry Rehman dubbed Qadri's letter to the prime minister as "concerning", suggesting that it was an attempt to “ban” Aurat March scheduled on March 8.
"Such a statement from a federal minister is shocking," she said, adding that March 8 is celebrated across the world as women's day. "What will you gain by imposing a ban on a march by unarmed women?"
She went on to say that no one had imposed restrictions on celebrating a day dedicated to hijab. "On the one hand, we condemn India's attitude, but on the other you talk about banning a women's march."
The senator said that International Women's Day was for women from all walks of life, adding that it aimed to raise awareness in society regarding gender stereotypes and discrimination against women.
"You are conspiring to deprive unarmed women of their freedom and rights on International Women's Day," she said.
The minister later issued a clarification, saying that “some political leaders are trying to spread negative propaganda without reading the letter.”
Qadri said in his letter to the prime minister he had recommended celebrating International Hijab Day on March 8.
He noted that female students in India were facing violence and mental anguish due to their decision to wear the hijab, referring to the recent ban on the headscarf in some Indian states.
He said that organisations fighting for women's rights had also raised their voices against growing extremism and Islamophobia in India.
In pictures: Women take to streets in Mumbai as hijab row expands in India
The minister said that Pakistani society was not too liberal, devoid of basic human rights or rigid in terms of religious values, suggesting that “our society should have a moderate character”.
"Obscenity and immodesty under the guise of rights should not be allowed under any circumstances," he said, adding that the contents of the letter were clear and reflected the collective thinking of Pakistani society.