Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab

Published: January 27, 2016

Recently, I came across a meme that compared the full niqab with local cultural dresses, and it reminded me of our unfortunate transformation.

Through fear of the sword or through promise of eternal torment they spread their regressive ways. Over time we found another reason to abhor each other, to feel divided, to openly judge our own. The foreign culture we adopted didn’t play well with our own, for it insisted in its dark perfection while clashing with our own light.

Whenever I travel from Pakistan I feel a melancholy that slowly hums in my heart overseas until it reaches full tempo when I return home. Other countries hold dear their customs and honour the old roots from which they rose with tolerance and diversity. Pakistan, on the other hand, has turned into a claustrophobic cultural mute.

If culture is food for the soul then we are going mad with starvation. Tragically, we are unable to realise this in our fractured state of mind. For so long we have boiled our meat without salt, pepper, or spice, that we now believe this is the way it is meant to be.

Imagine a Pakistan where you regularly socialise with Christian, Hindu, and Sikh Pakistanis, absorbing the aspects of their traditions that make them unique from you.

Imagine a Pakistan where you are able to attend an event of a culture different from your own, but completely Pakistani nonetheless.

Imagine a Pakistan where heritage sites are preserved with reverence rather than treated as offensive by the intolerant. Imagine a Pakistan where our language, clothing, and music remain unmolested by the Wahhabi sense of conformity.

As a child when I visited Karachi I recall the streets and taxis were full of melody; the latest Pakistani pop songs would blare at every corner. Today, the only tones that feature on the same roads are the sounds of vehicles and angry pedestrians. Full niqabs have replaced beautiful Pakistani dresses, long beards have taken the place of fashionably diverse faces, naats (praise of the Prophet (pbuh)) have taken over from musical numbers. Tellingly, a musician who once enriched our lives has transformed into a hard-line preacher in perhaps the biggest indication of our metamorphosis.

Recently, I came across a meme that compared the full niqab with local cultural dresses, and it reminded me of our unfortunate transformation. Inspired by this meme, I’d like to take you through a pictorial guide across the world.

1. This is a traditional Pakistani dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Reuters

2. These are Bangladeshi dresses:

Photo: Pinterest

Not these:

Photo: Pinterest

3. These are Afghani dresses:

Photo: Pinterest

Not these:

Photo: Pinterest

5. This is an Indian dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Pinterest

6. These are Iranian dresses:

Photo: Pinterest

Not these:

Photo: Pinterest

7. This is a Malaysian dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Reuters

8. This is an Indonesian dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Pinterest

9. This is an Iraqi dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Pinterest

10. This is a Syrian dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Pinterest

11. This is a Moroccan dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: Reuters

12. This is a Tunisian dress:

Photo: Pinterest

Not this:

Photo: AP

On one end we have colourful examples of cultural diversity, and on the other we have a misogynistic garb that seeks to paint women of the entire planet in a single colour. What does the world need more?

Do you agree or disagree with the views of the author?

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Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Adnan Siddique

    Pakistan’s national dress will always be shalwar kameez whether you wear a niqab or not! Just as you are free to express your views (to which i think majority will disagree with) so are people free to wear dresses what they like.
    And BTW, one thing is common in all pics – Niqab. That is a part of Islamic culture whether you like it or not.Recommend

  • farhan

    I totally agree with you noman.Recommend

  • saleem

    Burqa/Niqaab is not a dress, its a gown, women use to hide themselves when they go outside. Inside it they are indeed wearing same cultural dresses. If Burqa was a dress, women would have been wearing it in home as well.

    Secondly, if you are genuinely in love with your cultural heritage(which I doubt), write about Jeans/shirts/tops someday. There are some universities in Islamabad, that does not let boys wear Shalwar Qameez, write about them.Recommend

  • Akhand Bharat

    “If culture is food for the soul then we are going mad with starvation. Tragically, we are unable to realise this in our fractured state of mind. ” – Those are powerful lines, keep writing!!Recommend

  • Linux Novice


  • Parvez

    Your use of repetition in pictures to make your point, was very effective.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    Niqab and burkha have been worn by Pakistani women for centuries. It didn’t come to Pakistan through “wahhabism” or whatever a liberal like you discovers as your latest bogey man.

    What is the national dress of Pakistani men? Why are you not wearing one? Why lecture Pakistani women to forgo niqab and burkha when you are wearing shirt and slacks?

    Tell men in suits and slacks to forgo their non-Pakistani clothing.

    I will be very glad to see no suits, slacks, jeans and shirts in Pakistan.Recommend

  • goldconsumer

    Sir, with all due respect. Dupatta (taken on the head) is also a part of the shalwar kameez that you claim to be our national dress. You look graceful and “”enlightendly moderated with dupatta as well.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Pakistan is an Islamic country and they must adopt Islamic way of living.Woman in first pic,how she looks in comparison with tradition islamic dress read burqua or niquab…She is epitome of immodestyi…
    coming to pic no .5 ,non muslim women should not be allowed to wear islamic dress unless she convert to islam..so for this reason woman dressed in green sari looks far prettier than her representation in black gown…Hope I have made my point clear to allRecommend

  • normskyy

    What an utterly shameful article. What gives you the right to question what a woman wears or doesn’t wear. You sir, present yourself as a liberal and open minded person but follow the same mindset as those you claim to hate – chauvinistic and as a male telling women what they should and shouldn’t wear.
    They are all Pakistani dresses and it is down to the choice of women what they wear. The beauty of a society is the richness in differences. You sir clearly value a certain type of beauty and have the nerve to write in a newspaper with these patriarchal views. This is the new liberalism in Pakistan. In the west the liberals uphold the values of individual choice, in Pakistan the so called liberals follow more the lines of a radical rightist. Donald Trump would love you.Recommend

  • pathan

    Yet another liberal talking rubbish without literally wanting to know anything outside of his small, so called intellectual thinking capacity. As saleem suggested, i know for sure, that you will rather commit death rather than writing anything about your national language, urdu, but yet you would love english… writing about jeans, skirts and stuff but yet you will also be wearing the same right at this moment rather than shalwar kameez.

    Is there any limit of hypocrisy for you? or you are just spending your lives, like every other dummy? I wonder if you even know the abc of Islam, except that you are born muslim.Recommend

  • salman

    no, not clear at all. There is no such thing as an Islamic dress. Just like there are no Islamic tables or Islamic chairs, or Islamic hats, etc etc etc…Recommend

  • saud

    There are lot more positives to share about Pakistan than whining and crying over the same ghissey pittey topics, as a writer and freelancer you have this opportunity to express good sentiments about the country what is your point behind this article? I don’t see any meaning here than showing off to the world that Pakistan is a country where women are forced to loose their culture and wear niqaabs,No sir It is and has always been a free country and no matter what you whiners write about the traffic and all the bads happening it will always be loved, spread love through ur words for we need them more than all this bull crapRecommend

  • Noman Ansari

    I’m actually wearing a brown kurta as I am reading the comments. Doh.Recommend

  • Tasurrun

    Burqa can be worn even on top of a t shirt and Jeans , it is not replacing any culture rather it makes it easy for women to cover themselves; and nobody is forcing them to do so! Your article is quite vague and to be honest if Naats are being heard everywhere ,whats so wrong about that? Recommend

  • mk

    This article seems to condemn a religious aspect in the name of “culture”. Just for the sake of spicing up the female attire? Besides, as mentioned in a previous comment, burqa/niqab is not a dress.

    As for the cultural aspect, if the writer is so intent on preserving the national dress code, why not emphasize the fact that western attire (especially for the male majority) is being given a preference in a number of higher educational institutes and workplaces over the “cultural attire”?

    Or does that not count in the writer’s seemingly “cultural” taste?Recommend

  • German Ab

    everybody have the right to wear of his/her choice. one thing i feel in this article that women around the world with different ethnics choose burqa over there local dresses. means there is something powerful in burqa. we should acknowledge burqa who brought women on a single platform.Recommend

  • Girish

    Tells you one thing for sure across all the world arabic dresses or gown whatever you call them are the most dull for men as well as women …god knows why people are that idiot to wear these when they have other more beautiful options.Recommend

  • Joveria

    I generally don’t comment on blogs, but this one really made me feel its my responsibility to enlighten your bogus view of culture. Gentle man you need to have a proper definition of Culture, Religion is part of culture and its a Muslim culture to wear hijab, abbaya or any dress which is less attractive to men, so comparing a religious obligation to cultural standards is a completely insane idea. Women wear under Hijab’s what belong to their culture. If you are talking about culture then why is your blog in a foreign language it should have been in Urdu instead of a language, which is understandable by only a few of us “Pakistanis”.Recommend

  • Hassam Tahir

    but that’s not a pertaining issue? No one is forcing anyone to wear jeans or tops. This is a issue thou. One should be writing about the issues.Recommend

  • Hassam Tahir

    again no one forces jeans on to men nor does anyone say that jeans is the culture. The writer is not asking women to forgo burka. He is nearly pointing out what is the cultural dress as it is confused with burqaRecommend

  • Hassam Tahir

    except niqab has nothing to with Islam, Hijab is.Recommend

  • Fahad Javed

    Sure you are the one who should tell women what they should wear. All the way from Syria to Indonesia. Who gave them right to chose what to wear and how to express themselves.Recommend

  • Fahim rauf

    Actually mr. Noman ansari u shOuld go seek some real islamic teachings about hijaab and muslim culture before writing these kind of articles .. sorry but really disappointed by your this mindset.Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    Actually I’m wearing a kurta and I did write about urdu. But thanks for trying.


  • Rex Minor

    Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab

    This is the dress one sees you women wearing but this has nothing to do with calling it the National dress?

    Rex MinorRecommend

  • Brain Think

    Actually saree used to be the standard dress for the wives of the diplomats and top bureaucrats up till the 70s.
    It was ZIA who really promoted shalwar kameez to the “next level” for both men and women in order to appease the saudi wahhabis.
    Not to mention the “Burqa Revolution” that was launched as a forced fashion statement in the same era.Recommend

  • Nida Ali

    Yo chill out, let people wear what they like. You are as bad as people from the fundamentalist side asking everyone to wear burqa, if not worse.Recommend

  • Danish Ahmed Khokhar

    Salwar Kameez with dupatta !!! i really feel shame on Nauman Ansari Who didn’t mentioned about Muslim dressing Islam is not depend on any culture. If you want to see woman in many colors you can get lost from here to European area, Muslim women make Islam her culture. She is not depended on any culture.Recommend

  • Danish Ahmed Khokhar

    He just want to see women in different colors but first he has to start it from his own house , Its really Diplomacy and vulgar Muslim by name version who is actually defaming Islamic environment by saying this that Salwar kameez without Dupatta ?? you first study about national dress then talk or post grandiosity like thatRecommend

  • Patriot

    Pakistani men should wear Shalwar Kameez and women should wear Burqa per Sharia, Period.Recommend

  • silversurfer

    Many of us have grown up watching our mothers, aunts and relatives wearing shalwar qameez and dupatta, this new phenomenon of niqab and hijab is frankly new in the cities. Dont agree with all of the article, but the point remains that people think if u wear hijab or niqab you become a good muslim and a true pakistani.Recommend

  • silversurfer

    Sorry, but cultural dress means something which is visible. Inside a burqa, women can wear anything we dont know. The point is, women used to wear shalwar Qameez at home and outside and were more respected.Recommend

  • silversurfer

    According to your interpretation of islam, it is part of islamic culture. Even the Islamic ideology council have said that women dont need to cover their faces.

    This is what it is , ‘whether you like it not.’Recommend

  • vinsin

    Islamic Culture or Arabic Culture? Can people walk without any dresses or there are laws against it?Recommend

  • A.Q

    The following article is really offensive for all the women in purdah. Neither wearing shalwar kameez, denims or Naqaab will take me to Jannah, its just our actions and intentions that will end up being useful. Religion is more important than culture.

    Honestly I started the niqaab in a family where even a dupatta is considered optional not mandatory. And throughout my teens I have occasionally worn dupatta, but in last two years I started wearing an abaya because I felt more comfortable and secure in it and there is nothing wrong in wearing a burqa if one itself wants to wear it, I’m completely against the enforced purdah but if someone wants to wear itself then its the individuals discussion not a matter of public discussion.

    Moreover wearing a niqab doesn’t means ladies don’t wear designer lawn and high-end designer wear beneath them. And look around around yourself there are dozens of color abayas, niqabs and hijab. Lastly, these days purple is new black in abayasRecommend

  • abhi

    Nice blog with beautiful photographs to make the point.Recommend

  • abhi

    Get real, women are not chosing burqa it is forced on them.Recommend

  • abhi

    You can actually wear burqa only as well. doesn’t make any difference.Recommend

  • trololololo

    the “not this” dress is a saudi dress, most probablyRecommend

  • Rafidi

    The writer is obsessed with women niqab is an outer clothing it has nothing to do with whether you want to wear salwar kameez or whatever. Try writing some blogs which deal with real issues. Don’t mess with people dresses it is there choice whether they want to cover or not.Recommend

  • Bairooni Haath

    Unfortunately all that was good about Pakistan, Dress, Culture, Punjabi Language, Food & History all belong to India now. Pakistan is stuck with the fake Arab version of all these. Oh well, you will reap the benefits in the afterlife!Recommend

  • Arman Zain

    Noman, Nice write up but i beg to differ.

    Shalwar Kameez and Niqab are two different things. Shalwar Kameez should be wore proudly at home confinement but per Islamic laws it is not sufficient for outdoors. The least requirement for outdoors is Hajib with abbaya. Lets not confuse people. If you have issue with Islamic ruling then I am sure both of us are not qualified enough to discuss Islamic rulings, you should consult few scholars as you consult doctors when you have health issue. I am sure you know self-medication is not good for health, and self-fatwas are not good for society.


  • Muhammad Bilal

    Just one question. Why double standard, if you raised this issue you should also put men in jeans shirts and say this is not Pakistani dress and this is.Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    Ok, then you need to wear a beard. Why are you without a beard? Perhaps you have forgotten ‘deen main jabar nahin.’ If someone does not wear niqab it does not mean you are not a Muslim.Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    There is no Islamic dress. That’s the beauty of Islam. It allows the local cultural customs and values to be adopted if they are within the norms of modesty. Learn something about the religion of Islam before commenting. It’s quite obvious your knowledge about it is stereotypical, what you have heard or seen – mind you may not be true.Recommend

  • Kasturi K

    why wear designer lawn or jora under abaya? why spend so much money on clothes when one is even going to look at it? If you are doing it for your own satisfaction even then I don’t get it. Its precious money you are squandering.Recommend

  • Daniel Bluesmith

    Jeans and T shirts are also not our national dress, but you only picked naqab.

  • Kasturi K

    Pakistan has nothing to do with niqab or hijab. Yes, shalwar kameez with dupatta definitely has everything to do with Pakistan.Recommend

  • fze

    Quite frankly, the way hijab or burqa is worn now a days draws more attention towards the person instead of taking it away from her. Specially the way hijab is worn with puffed up hair, kohl lined eyes, powdered face and red lips. Its more of a fashion statement than modesty.Recommend

  • fze

    try it, you’ll get to know.Recommend

  • Muhammad Danish Soomro

    I think the writer have forgotten that got separation on the bases of Islamic ideas not on the bases of man made culture
    If he does not know what Islam actually is then he is always welcome to learn about itRecommend

  • WG

    Although influence of niqab in Islamic culture is present but niqab does not really have a relation to Islam; instead it’s a garment which women wear in the belief that they are doing something extra in order to please Allah more. Meaning that it is their own opinion or interpretation.Recommend

  • Arisha

    i agree that naqaab is not the national dress of Pakistan but so is jeans, shirts etc. There has been an increase in the Abaya culture recently but so do we see girls wearing all sorts of dresses other than Shalwar Kameez! You can not target only one faction of the society and criticize it. The article seems to me, to be very honest, anti-religious rather than pro-cultural! I have been living in Karachi since my birth & I haven’t witnessed shift from songs to naat! In fact nowadays u get to hear more songs than there used to be about 10 years back and now not only Pakistani songs but English & Hindi movie songs r being played at the loudest possible volume! We live in a free country Pakistan where we are not restricted to wear, eat or listen anything; be it burqa or jeans, music or naat, meat or vegetable!Recommend

  • Vinod

    Niqab and burkha are becoming very popular in Europe much more than South Asia.These women think they are more muslim than those who wear nice jeans.Recommend

  • hp kumar

    your incoherent mind will not understand,however its pretty obvious though..I would rather like to have discussion over what burqua symbolizes, with a muslim woman than you.I assure you here ,they r gonna tell me burqua is religious symbol which separates them from non-muslim women..In a sense,Burqua symbolizes Islamic faith..I still believe you r not gonna get it since you r a muslim yourself..to better visualize this fact you need to grow as a nonmuslim and then need to see the world aesthetically …Recommend

  • siesmann

    Burka is also good for mullahs to escape from tight situations.It is also nice facial mask in cities with pollution.(environmental and mental)
    And just as Mullahs are not forcing women to wear burkas(per some commentators),so the author is not pushing women to wear the varied dresses.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    No one forces your to wear jeans? Jeans is not culture? Brown sahib, your friends at Karachi Grammar forces you to wear jeans so that you look cool. The burger generation/liberals in Pakistan have no idea about the amount forces directly and indirectly applied to them and shape the culture they live in.

    Pakistani culture is deeply intertwined with our religion. Your own names: Hassam and Tahir are product of that culture. Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    Great!! Next time I see you walking around Pakistan with non-Pakistani clothing like slacks and shirts, remind me to call you a hypocrite.Recommend

  • Zeeshan


    “intellectual thinking capacity.”

    That capacity rarely exists among liberals.Recommend

  • Zeeshan

    but there is “islamic terrorism”?Recommend

  • Sid

    Salwar Qameez is a traditional and cultural dress. Niqab / Burqa is religious garb, not a dress. What is increasingly dangerous is that people have forgotten the difference and are just concerned about their religious identity and want to prove their religious allegiance they dawn the religious garb more than traditional wear.
    People should wear what they like and feel comfortable in. Society and religion should not be dictating neither should be driving, the fashion of an individual. This is basic freedom.Recommend

  • Nida Ali

    No thanks, keep your silly laws to yourself.Recommend

  • Shaikh

    Do you realize that the niqab or the face veil is really an outgrowth of the harems of the Persian Byzantium era where concubines were required to wear a face veil to go outside the harem. So we are really calling our women concubines and that may include our mothers and sisters……right? Read up on your history before you start spewing this religion and culture stuff. Don’t just read the Holy Quran – study it. There is a difference between the burqa and purdah. The burqa is a piece of cloth and the purdah is a concept that applies to both MEN and WOMEN. Well done, Noman. Its time we bought these issues to the forefront.Recommend

  • Daviduke

    Kumar bhai, yes, Pakistan is a Islamic republic but everyone is free to wear what they want. No civil or sharia dress code law exist. Certainly not like Iran or Saudi where women are forced to wear some kind of niqab.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Then why everyone women in Pakistan trying to wear Jeans & Shirt? which is not there cultural dress? Next time try to write about your inferiority complex.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Majority of so called bloggers that are hired in Pakistani media are of his type. There is a reason why you will never find anything Islamic on Pakistani media. They won’t get money if they started defending the modest Islamic dressing i.e. Hijab.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Majority of so called bloggers that are hired in Pakistani media are of his type. There is a reason why you will never find anything Islamic on Pakistani media and if it comes they will runaway or block us via comments section. never open for a debate. They won’t get money if they started defending the modest Islamic dressing i.e. Hijab.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    Majority of the dresses that he shows are from Fashion magazines or shows. Seriously?Recommend

  • J

    Noman: you have touched on a very potent and relevant topic. Kudos to your thinking! Saudi / Wahhabi mentality and culture import has led us to a very intolerant society. The worst part is complete brain wash of women themselves. Women’s takes torture so happily and with surity that they deserve it. Recommend

  • Minerva

    You give your religion too much credit. There were many religions and cultures before Islam was founded. The founder of your religion wore the same attire and ate the same food of his native land. Islam did not create a new species on earth. It is just another interpretation of how to worship God.Recommend

  • Mustafa Mirza

    Im sorry, but this is really juvenile. The Holy Quran itself says “There is no compulsion in religion”, so anyone is forcing anyone to do anything is against Islam. Since even if it is a good deed its useless, since it is for a reason other than the love and fear of Allah.

    However, there are hundreds and thousands of women wearing hijab and niqab out of their own choice. We should be speaking out against forcing women (and men) to do things they do not want to do, instead of speaking spuriously against covering up.

    The author has regaled us with pictures of traditional dresses, I just wonder, does he consider modern versions of the shalwar kameez which expose the arms or back to be acceptable dresses? And if yes, does a non traditional dress become a problem only when it covers women up rather than when it uncovers them?Recommend

  • bashubibi

    This Niqab thing is a recent conservative middle class and lower middle class phenomenon. There were no Niqabs in the 70s, they made their appearnce in the mid 80’s promoted by Jamat e Isalmi in Pakistan coinciding with the Arabization and wahabization of Pakistan in the name of “real” Islam. Women work in the fields, women work in factories, women work in the armed forces and police, this is not practical and not required by Islam. This is the same as burying women alive or locking them up in their homes in the name of “respecting” them and “honoring” them. Prophet Mohammad SAW gave women rights and stopped the custom of burying women alive. Women tended to the injured Muslims in the battle fields during Prophet Mohammad SAW’s time. How did they do that without touching them? This is unnatural and an extreme dress code adopted by ultra conservative Muslims who are trying to promote it as a “Muslim” dress code. There is no uniform in Islam. Morals are judged by actions and not by appearances.Recommend

  • saleem

    visible to who??? I don’t know how to respond to such lame arguments. I can debate this for hours by commenting back and forth, but I would rather choose to spend that energy on something useful.Recommend

  • Suresh Sanyal

    Actually all Pakis are Hindus, now Muslims!! Pakis are brainwashed to think they have Arab lineage but have Hindu ancestors! No matter how much you want to segregate yourself from this reality, it will keep haunting you, generations after generations!
    So now you face the full force of fanaticism of Islam! In dress, education, lifestyle, society, women’s rights, beliefs, etc.
    But you will always look, talk, eat like Indians.Recommend

  • Atheist

    The comments here tells the sorry state the muslims. Hide your women like its stone age, truly pathetic.Recommend

  • zaka

    This guy really needs to grow up to talk with some sense.Recommend

  • DevilHunterX

    THIS IS AN OUTRAGE! Well now that is done, let’s see what else we can get angry about this year.Recommend

  • Hassan Wali

    Oh I thought we are Muslim first and then cultural Pakistani! Further, I was told Pakistan was created for Muslims so that they could live in Islamic Culture, not in Pakistani culture! By the way brother Noman, where do you find modest Pakistani culture on Television /Dramas / Films?? No wonder why you have compared a Niqabi women with Shalwar Kameez Pakistani women instead of immodest Shalwar kameez / jeans / tight shirts Pakistani women (which we see on Television) with modest Shalwar kameez women.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    Congratulations Noman ! you’ve kept another brick in the polarization of your people by blatantly attacking the way of life of many who “chose” to wear what they want. I see no difference between you and the one who criticizes female for wearing western dresses. Its people like you who are actually steering hat and pushing people more towards radicalization by igniting anti rationalist thoughts in them and making them hat anything coming from progressive people. The purpose of this debate should have been convincing people that moderation is superior to anything, but you badly failed in conveying this message. If you think that you can change the world like this then go ahead, ridicule them for their way of life and end up living in some “free” country while making a life out of bashing people’s choices and opinions.

    p.s. Technically, the bases of your rational is flawed as what you are showing as a dress is not a dress but a cover, which lots of people chose to do when they go out.

  • Sara

    For smart, good looking, progressive, active and modern people, jeans, shirts, shorts, slacks are practical dresses. For lazy, medieval mentality, regressive and boring looking people, shalwar kameez, niqab, hijab, burqa are more suitable.Recommend

  • Alpha09

    Thanks Noman. Excellent work. Our civilization is 5000 years old, yet we are a people mired in deep inferiority complex. The cultural dresses our female wore centuries has been changed due to “petrodollar”. (The “Allah Hafiz complex”). The love for “Petrodollar” has even affected our culture & faith.
    BTW, for all those who think the male “Shalwar Kameez” is a historical “national dress”, think again. The Kameez part is the British shirt, which Punjabis (Muslim, Hindu & Sikh) government employees in the 19th century had stitched a bit longer to wear over the dhoti/shalwar after office hours.Recommend

  • Anam

    I do not understand why Pakistani MEN do not wear a burqa, hijab, niqab etc or arabic dress like they force on their ladies.Recommend

  • Jehanzeb Idrees

    You got it massively wrong Mr. Ansari. I am personally offended by this article and would have loved to confront you in person than replying you back. I am personally offended because my wife observes purdah while my sisters, their daughters and my mother don’t. What I managed to do as a husband while coming from a liberal family, that is to give freedom to my wife, you failed to do so while commenting in the same vein for the women from all those Muslim countries. Who says liberal like you are not extremist and misogynist???

    A lot of women in Urban centers like Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad/Rawalpindi wear jeans, is that not a foreign import? If that doesn’t bother YOUR culture and religion then you better keep your prejudices and biases to your drawing room as this is not a forum to question what people like to wear and what they should. The narrative of putting culture before religion is an inane attempt to cover up a confused state of mind, pseudo-intellectualism can only divide societies with their half-baked analysis based on inbred misconceptions, the fallout of which is for everyone to see in the Middle East.Recommend

  • mimi sur

    The “not this” dress is the Saudi dress .Recommend

  • Guddu, Gullu and Gomnath.

    If a woman is caught without a hijab, niqab, burqa, in, say,
    FATA, or some areas of K-P and southern Punjab [which are
    heavily influenced by Wahabi/Khawariji Sunni Islam]
    policed by ever watchful mullahs, then she would be in danger
    of her life. Women have NO rights in these toxic areas.Recommend

  • Bibloo

    Bindi or no bindi. Saree or no saree. That, is the big question.
    Even the Eskimos want to know who are these people running
    a 7-11 convenience store, in the middle of nowhere. All with the
    same last name. Patel.Recommend

  • Ashhad Kamal Taseer

    To all those pitiable minds who think they can devise better than Allah as to what is right and what is wrong, who present deluded and totally false background of Niqab and Parda in Pakistan and who think women can get recognition and respect only by abandoning the ways that Prophet PBUH has told us and the ways shown us by the Sahabiat RA and wives of the Prohpet, SAW ,, who are mothers to all Muslims, and those minds who think culture has nothing to do with religious values, I condemn you all. Your bias and prejudice against Islam is evident. If you people think the Niqab aur Parda is prevalent because some ruler from the past or any person introduced it or enforced it then I truly believe you have sold your mind and your ability to think and understand. We have had over 10 years under a secular leader, who was also a military general with all the power and might, named Musharraf, who gave a boost to the media industry, thanks to which obscenity and nudity in our media industry is at its peak, then we had 5 years of rule under a secular party and now 2 more have gone under secular minded rulers, but still masses in pakistan choose to wear hijab. It is the way of Allah , not the way of some Army General or a Ruler. This is Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and Hijab is and always has been part of our culture. It is your fault that you were raised in an environment where women did not cover up in front of Na Mehram , where women didnt bother much if they were exposed in front of men in the market !! Even if women didnt use to wear full Hijab, they observed strict Parda in front of men , and the concept of dupatta is an evidence to that. There had been a very strict minority of secular families back then who didnt mind mixed gatherings, otherwise, all the gatherings used to be separate and all. Please go and do a little digging on what truly our cultural values are before taking to a keyboard and painting the people of Pakistan and their preferences with you prejudiced secular brush !!Recommend

  • imwithtruth

    go home u liberals before attacking ur own religion and learn ur religion first! culture has nothing to do with religion, if u dont like to follow religion and just stick to culture then dont mess around the people who are acting correctly. what a rubish article.Recommend

  • Asy ma wail !

    and you are standing right beside each and everyone of them to witness the brutality happening to them? If not all, most of them DO chose what they wear. Welcome to the world..Recommend

  • siesmann

    Figures.Mother,sister and daughter don’t wear it;only wife doesRecommend

  • siesmann

    As Hasan Nisar says,burkas were worn by tawaaifs until 70s.Suddenly it changed in 80sRecommend

  • mimi sur

    Culture has everything to do with religion. Culture shapes the religion. Why do you wear a white gown and a rope tied around your head like arabs do ?Recommend

  • hp kumar

    Bravo for saying it bluntlyRecommend

  • Mune Khan

    Respected author, ur article made me a little jumpy, when I found ALL the discussion about BURQA/NIQAB. You touched a very vast field of culture, without knowing that culture is not merely dress. Anyhow, if according to you, women should wear their cultural dress, then why not men. Why not you start a mission to change the army dress to cultural shalwar kameez, official dress to shalwar kameez and no neck tie. And to play the folk music and do cultural dance, not the pop music and western dance. Remember Sir, for Muslims the culture and norms of life is all that is present in Islam, not made by our own will or we would have to fall prey to our desires. I was quite astonished to see, Why the men are targeting women, why they want them not to cover in burqa.?? Is that because in burqa the men can’t scan a woman , his eyes can’t chase her to the corner of the street, he can’t pass vulgar comments??? The world is going up and up in technology and progressing, while here we are just discussing the covered women? Wasting our time only to interfere with women’s own business, own’s right, own’s privacy?? This is OPPRESSION of women, not giving them the right to live as they want, even if it’s in burqa. Our country is bleeding nowadays and here we are engaged in writing about burqa and cultural dress?? Is this our conscience??? I can say at the end ” Poor Pakistan, i am sorry”Recommend

  • salman

    There are terrorists who claim to be Muslims and believe they are following the Quran, etc. In my opinion they have misunderstood or misrepresented the Quran. And if we delve further, there is usually also a political angle to most of these Terrorists groups. So no…

  • Mubashir Mahmood

    It is for sure that Author has not done proper home-work in this write-up. Atleast do complete research when you are writing for a blog like tribune. As photo shows he has failed in showing dresses. Instead he is focusing on burqa. Iraq, Indonesia, Malaysia, Iran in whole are not wearing this what writer has shown.Recommend

  • talha usmani

    Please disclose where in Quran, Sunnah, & Ahadith the word Abbaya is mentioned. Quran has taught us the etiquette for both men and women when they meet. If those etiquette are properly followed there is no need to disguise women with a extra layer of clothing.Recommend

  • salman

    Well, since no women have replied to you, I guess you’re stuck with me and my incoherent mind!
    But yes, no doubt if you speak to certain women in Pakistan they will say niqab symbolizes Islamic faith. But you will equally get muslim women in Pakistan who say that niqab is not Islamic, but more of a cultural dress from Middle East that certain muslims have adopted.
    As I recall, the Quran says to dress modestly, not cover your face. You can easily do that with a salwar kameez, or any loose fitting clothes. My point is, there is no one “Islamic dress”…there are commands to dress modestly…which you can do with a number of clothing items.
    Its quite a subtle point, and maybe hard for people as yourself who deal in broad strokes and make vast generalizations to understand.
    I hope you can follow despite my stunted growth as a nonmuslim.
    Best regardsRecommend

  • talha usmani

    I agree with the writer to the point where if women or girls are being enforced by their parents or society to where the extra layer of Abbaya and cover their faces whenever they go out, otherwise it should be left to the discretion of the women what they want to wear when they go out. They are self aware human beings and they can take decisions for themselves, because on the day of Judgment the society will not answer for them but they themselves have to answer for their deeds. So this decision of what they want to wear should be best left to them.
    The main thing is to educate everyone what Quran, Sunnah & Ahadith teach us in this regard and then leave it to the discretion of human beings for their acceptability.Recommend