Reflections on Hijab for School Girls in Asad Kashmir

By Haya Fatima Sehgal
Hijab is part of Pakistani society but it should be a personal decision, argues the writer. (Photo via video stream)
The Hijab Enforcement for school-going girls in AJK (Azad Jammu and Kashmir) is an unnecessary doctrine. A circular was released about enforcing Hijab in institutions that practice co-education by the local bodies and the educational board, and seems to be taken as a ‘consensus.’

The circular also warned that disciplinary action would be taken against the heads of the institutions if the orders were broken.

Nobody is arguing Islamic ideas or religious sensitivities. However, Pakistan was created as a modern state by exceptional leaders who never sought or spoke of such implementations for their own people. The country’s current leadership is adamant about enforcing restrictions that will be harmful in the long term as well as polarizing the population.

Hijab in Pakistani society is complex and multidimensional, reflecting different views and experiences. It is an essential symbol of Islamic religion and identity, but it should be a personal decision rather than a societal or cultural necessity.

Enforcing such a thing is clearly a misstep for a country already struggling with an identity crisis of mammoth proportions.

Pakistanis tend to be an incredible group of people with enhanced diversity: there are elements left from the British era such as language and education, to its history of struggle and resistance, down to its current deep-rooted political upheavals (those which have never ended since its inception); Pakistan’s culture is also vastly different from each province to the next. In addition, it has a stark divide between the urban and rural area communities that follow a different codes of cultural values and ethics. All of this diversity is what Pakistan should embrace and consider a strength.

Islamic sentiments have played a major role in Pakistan’s Political history. Most of which were accelerated into radicalism during the Zia dictatorship in the 1970’s.  However, Pakistan itself was made by a very modern visionary individual Muhammad Ali Jinnah, a statesman who recognized that one could utilize the best of the worlds that were bestowed.

The headscarf is an essential element for Muslim women, but it is controversial and has caused humanitarian issues in several countries where it has been enforced as a law. Examples of this have been found in Iran and Afghanistan, where women have been subjected to brutality due to such enforcement.

The divide is going to be stark when Pakistan reels back from its elections game and realizes that part of the country is now serving under more didactic terms for women in particular.
Enforcement has never served vulnerable communities as the enforcers have in history always resorted to violence upon those they have policed over.

The press reported that the people of the concerned parties had a joint consensus on the recent circular issued, but there is no consensus when the words used are “enforcement.”

The term “Islamic Republic” was not given by the original founders of the state. Pakistan was named as “Islamic Republic of Pakistan” by article 1 of the constitution of 1973, keeping in mind other minority communities. This was not the vision of the original founders of the nation.

In my article, ‘No Extremism for Pakistan,’ I had written that there will be a culture of radicalism that would be ‘seeping in’. This is what extremist groups usually do is change the social construct of a country methodically, which needs to be curbed immediately.

These subtle changes in government policies will have a direct cultural, religious, social divide and polarize the nation one day. Given the present political and economic circumstances, this will be sooner rather than later.

The writer is a security analyst known for her articles on sociocultural issues.

This article first appeared in Daily Times. Click here to go to the original

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