Beggar at Ghazi Chowk


Burqas and Conservatives – Let it Be.

14 May 2010

This Dawn Article is raising one of those existential questions that make me want to run. I’m too lazy to run so I just sit around and watch a TV show, but its the thought that counts.

So the column criticizes the Pakistan National Council of Arts for disallowing the production of Burqavaganza on Ajoka premises. I think the name says it all about the play.

The column’s main resting point being that the Council is not in a position to decide what is or against cultural norms because who’s to say what is and is not our culture. And then goes on to argue that anything that offends/is against the beliefs of conservatives should not automatically be disallowed. Note that the article uses the word ‘offends’, but I think the author meant it to mean anything that questions and not necessarily offends conservative sensibilities.

If it means offend then I’m not sure what to say.

Anyway, here’s my two cents (or should I say paanch rupay – to avoid accusations of becoming to American from my friends).

The Burqa itself being called conservative is an iffy for me. Sure not wearing one might be considered liberal, along with other things, but wearing one is a whole other matter. Who are conservatives in modern Pakistan? Are the Taliban conservative? Yes. Are they the conservatives? I don’t know. But they might be.

And this isn’t politically conservative, that too, but more socially here, even religiously.

And then again, this isn’t just any other conservative point of view.

Our society is unique. It is not based on debate between lines of argument, it is not based on purely rational/logical influences. Its philosophy lies in faith, and that is apparent everywhere.

Don’t get me wrong, not to say that faith is not logical, by logical I mean here something like say the American or British Constitution; a set of rules that is based on strict guidelines. Points of view are held below in stature to those guidelines. In Pakistan on the other hand, points of view originate from faith and religion many times, and that is something people hold very dear to themselves. With a majority that lives such faith-based lives, it becomes more complicated to just deal with things such as the Burqa in a purely logical manner. All beliefs come with a certain inertia as I call it, a discomfort about change. That means people will not always be good humored about it, and its not their fault. While the private school generation of the 90s and the new millennium grows up watching satirical news shows, exposed to poke fun at society, others are in different states.

The Western model worked in the west, but dare I say they didn’t have as much to deal with. A solution here will be more complicated, definitely more ingenious. Boxes of liberal and conservative misrepresent the Pakistani people, and are reducing their argument to something simpler, which it unfortunately, is not.