Articles of the year 2007

The Burqa Bamboo Brigade
Published on April 07th, 2007

Till yesterday, the burqa was a dress of piety, not unlike a Nun's habit. Which gave the wearer an aura of virtue. The Christian nuns for over a thousand years had, with their sacrifice of worldly goods, and commitment to religion made their shapeless attire a symbol of their life of denial.

In Pakistan, the burqa was also worn to protect the owner from the lascivious leer and the viewer from any carnal provocation. Quickly it was used by the Fundamentalist Parties as a uniform to allow their womenfolk to bolster their numbers within the assemblies, and to project their views on Television without being seen by the audience We assumed the burqa was protective both for its religious purpose, and for what we assumed was a female who would need physical protection, by advertising that she was of the weaker sex. In fact the burqa symbolized just that – the wearer's right to protection.

The images that have emerged from Islamabad, the Capital of Pakistan, of lathi carrying burqa clad women that have been flashed around the world has changed all that. By public display, and the use of the weapons (lathis) they have stripped away the defensive mode of the burqa, and have assumed the mantle of an aggressor, far from the pious and the meek. Here is a body of women prepared to threaten shopkeepers, police, and fight if need be, all without showing their faces. They have quite simply by invading Aabpara Market, moved themselves into aggressors, and should have invited the wrath of the law in any civilization. In fact, the shopkeepers themselves could easily in their own defence have retaliated by stripping off the burqas to ascertain for themselves if indeed they were women. It is unlikely that Pakistani women would resort to such behaviour. And if indeed the Madras's are in fact producing from their curricula such students, then surely it is time to ban the pretense of any religious code, for none such exists. The Men of the Madrassah should be punished for using women to fight their battles. The women should be punished, for they have raised doubts on genuinely burqa clad women throughout Pakistan. Now any woman wearing a burqa can be challenged, for the Islamabad episode has indeed cast doubts on all. It is a good omen that the Lal Masjid Mullahs, have given the Islamabad authorities a very strong cause to eradicate this scourge that will soon engulf all Pakistan.

If the Political parties do not see the danger of this course, then they should realize that there is a build up of revulsion for a beard, and for the Hijab. There may come a time when both are targeted. Polarization may swing so that, we could have places where beards are banned.

How ever, President General Musharraf must act now, starting with the sacking of his Minister, who was the first to surrender, (Abject Surresnder written three weeks earlier in this Paper.) and has within the space of a short time encouraged the Burkhaladies, to up the ante. Otherwise their next step would be to barricade the President, to shed his uniform, then the Presidency itself. And Mr. President if this is a ploy to rattle the Americans, let me assure you that these few weeks have terrified the rest of us— the Silent Majority of Pakistan. There may be collective prayers for a saviour to deliver us from the burqa bamboo Brigade, not unlike the prayers offered to usher you in. The Ministers of Interior, and Religion, and the CDA should be sacked for imperiling the State, at the hands of the burqa brigade, not to mention the effect on the international image of Pakistan, nor your dream of enlightened moderation. It does begin to seem that the men advising you are divided between the doves and the hawks. Strangely enough the doves have prevailed – in the Lal Masjid affair, and the hawks in the Chief Justice case. Both sets of Advisers should be removed immediately. We can only wonder what has paralyzed your Government in Islamabad. For the mood is somber, and the people are in genuine want of decisive leadership. You must act now. Start by cleansing Islamabad, of the burqa brigades, or we may have the citizens come out to protect their life and property. If the Government is worried for what the 3000 girls can do, it should surely worry about the 10,000, normal, very angry women who would come out for their shopkeeper husbands.(This article was written before the establishment of a Shariat court in the Lal Masjid, which certainly compounds all the dangers listed above)