The question of what is obscenity once again raised its head in print media that would end in a philosophic quagmire. While the opponent’s censorship stress that obscenity can’t be defined and different societies have their own yardstick to judge obscenity and that it varies from person to person. The apologists are full of certainty and are so sure of everything under the sun that one is baffled at their complete understanding of women’s bodies, minds and souls. For the whole world a woman is an enigma, but for them it’s like the back of their palms.

Obscenity is considered to be destroying the very fabric of society, and censorship is the detergent powder that removes the stains of immorality. The fabric of society is not threatened by hunger, war, exploitation but starts tearing from its seams if a little fabric is missing on women’s body – this societal fabric is somehow only connected with the clothes on a woman’s body. We judged western civilization by the amount of fabric on their women in summer, but not by the fabric on them in winter, when they are covered from head to toe with wool, leather, and overcoats etc.

This fabric comes in two prints, obscenity and vulgarity. Censorship, moral police, inquisition, trial, are first cousins and the bleaching agents of obscenity. It’s a joint family system. The patriarchs of the tribe are twin brothers, moral censorship and political censorship that are always seated side by side in tribal jirgas. The friendship of moral censorship and political censorship is legendary. If one is under attack, the other comes to its rescue.

This fabric of society is designed to cover the eyes of people so as not to see the interests of the ruling elite who are like the  emperor without fabric. This societal fabric has multiple functions. It can be changed into the handkerchief of a thug to suffocate political opponents and sometimes sewn into a bag to accumulate ill-gotten wealth. For half of Pakistan’s life this fabric was starched and dyed in the khaki color.

Pakistan is among the top 10 goggling countries for porn on the internet. A world without clothes is just one click away but the guardians of fabric want more than anything to place the missing fabric on the uncovered head of a woman or her naked mid riff on TV. The fabric of the society is threatened once the lower middle class watch a bare mid riff but is completely secure if it is being watched on internet TV by the select few in their cozy palatial homes. This fabric is specially designed for the lower middle class who have only access to the idiot box as entertainment.

The centuries old craft of textile designers existed in all societies. Sometimes they are found to cut fabric for witches in Europe, designer fig leaves for painting and sculpture. The greatest of all fashion designers in recent history was Adolf Hitler who sewed the fabric with the Swastika logo. His designer clothes perfectly fitted people like Bertolt Brecht, Karl Marx, Hemingway and notably Heinrich Heine, who famously wrote, “Where they burn books, they will in the end also burn people.” They eventually burned people to make some soap to wash that fabric in the Auschwitz concentration camps.

Zia-ul-Haq was an internee of a master apparel designer Aurangzeb Alamgir who sewed designer caps to earn his livelihood. Aurangzeb killed all his family and beheaded his rival Dara Shikoh who refused to wear his caps. When fabric-less Sheikh Sarmad confronted fully clothed Aurangzeb, He recited,

He covered with a garment those who had any fault To the faultless he gave the robe of nudity.

The great Qaziul Qazat mullah Qavi of Dehli gave verdict against Sheikh Sarmad for roaming without a fabric on his body. The fabric-less saint was beheaded in front of Jamia Mosque who was by chance also a supporter and friend of Dara Shikoh. The eternal friendship of moral censorship and political censorship was alive in 18th century. Alas! All these designer caps and fabric couldn’t stop the Marhattas tearing that garment from its seams after the great master craftsman died. The Alamgir garment store was opened in Pakistan when the Objective resolution was stitched to the fabric of Pakistani society. Saadat Hasan Manto, was punished for not properly sewing ‘kali shalwar’ (black trousers) on ‘thanda gosht’ (cold meat) and accidentally he also happened to be a progressive writer.

Bhutto also started embroidered awami suits and printed lawn for Ahmadis, and tried to force skullcaps on people for their Friday prayers. But soon the starched fabric and cloth merchants sent him in white latha to Garhi Khuda Buksh.

Zia was also a great textile designer who ran his boutique ‘stars and strips’ for 11 years. His boutique produced penguin white shalwar kameez and black waistcoat that is still a rage in Pakistan. He designed special apparel for women appearing on TV channels. To put the fabric of society in its proper place moral censorship started arresting and lashing people for not wearing fabric properly and his twin brother political censorship created a special DPR that created apparel for publications; some publications like Dhanak were banned who refused to wear the new apparel.

But the fabric is not threatened by parading two women without fabric in Khangarh. This fabric is resistant to CDs found in Taliban hideouts in Khyber or OBL’s safe heaven but is threatened by the face of women on the roadsides billboards. Unless you threaten the twin brothers, they wouldn’t come after you, but if the elder brother, political censorship is threatened, the younger brother would charge after you like a hungry lion and devour you – fabric or no fabric.

 


The author left architecture for painting but ended up as a cartoonist and now writes Hijjo. He is the jack of all trades.

 


The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

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