Wahabism Engulfes Pakistan – Burkas Proliferate

Posted on September 17, 2010


Blogging friend, thelonewriterguy.wordpress.com, brought this post to our attention.

‘Burka’ and Intellectual Terrorism

By Awais Masood

In an article published in the January 2009 edition of Newsline, prominent Pakistani academic, scientist and social activist Pervez Hoodbhoy outlined the root causes of religious extremism in Pakistan and while doing so pointed out towards deliberate attempts of imposing an Arab culture upon the pluralistic South Asian traditions upheld by the people of Pakistan. [1]

These attempts include the import of puritanical Wahabi strand of Islam from Arabia under state patronage. The fundamentalist and puritanical Wahabism has engulfed the lower middle and urban middle class of Pakistan and is on its way to completely change the cultural outlook of this region. One of the examples includes ‘abaya’ (a long robe worn by Arabic women) which was an unknown word in Urdu (and an equally unknown entity in local culture) but has now become a common spectacle in educational institutes.

As’ad AbuKhalil

Surely, such articles do not go down well with those belonging to conservative religious right and adherents of political Islam as they seek establishment of a theocratic state in Pakistan and for them subjugation and oppression of women remains a part of their faith. One rightly expects severe criticism from the religious right as the assertion of  their political values gets challenged.  Strangely, criticism also came from another unlikely corner.

Surely, such articles do not go down well with those belonging to conservative religious right and adherents of political Islam as they seek establishment of a theocratic state in Pakistan and for them subjugation and oppression of women remains a part of their faith. One rightly expects severe criticism from the religious right as the assertion of  their political values gets challenged.  Strangely, criticism also came from another unlikely corner.  As’ad AbuKhalil, a California State University professor  of political science, posted the following excerpt from Hoodbhoy’s article at his blog ‘The Angry Arab News Service’:

“The Saudi-isation of a once-vibrant Pakistani culture continues at a relentless pace. The drive to segregate is now also being found among educated women. Vigorous proselytisers carrying this message, such as Mrs Farhat Hashmi, have been catapulted to the heights of fame and fortune. Their success is evident. Two decades back, the fully veiled student was a rarity on Pakistani university and college campuses. The abaya was an unknown word in Urdu. Today, some shops across the country specialise in abayas. At colleges and universities across Pakistan, the female student is seeking the anonymity of the burqa. And in some parts of the country she seems to outnumber her sisters who still “dare” to show their faces. I have observed the veil profoundly affect habits and attitudes. Many of my veiled female students have largely become silent note-takers, are increasingly timid and seem less inclined to ask questions or take part in discussions. They lack the confidence of a young university student.”

AbuKhalil condemned Hoodbhoy’s criticism of burka as ‘vulgar Western Orientalism’ and commented as:

“That is such a wild generalization. This is like suggesting that dress–in whatever shape–can affect the level of confidence of a woman. This comes from the cliches of vulgar Western orientalism. I can attest that during my brief speaking tour in Islamabad I found that the burka in no way make female students lacking in self-confidence. As I reported at the time, I found that it was my problem and not their problem (I was the one who felt uncomfortable discussing ideas with a woman whose eyes I could not see). ” [2]

Read the remainder of the article here.