Our national dress is the shalwar kameez, not the niqab

Published: January 27, 2016
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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?

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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.