Friday, January 30, 2009

Saudization of Pakistan: and the Pakistanization of Western stereotypes

"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."" 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). (thanks Nabeel)