The length of my sleeves has nothing to do with my ghairat

Published: May 14, 2016

A university in Faisalabad has decided to impose a clothing restriction on its students and staff. PHOTO: FILE

A university in Faisalabad has decided to impose a clothing restriction on its students and staff. Like always, the opinions on it have now been divided into the two most common categories: the beyghairat (shameless) liberals and the ghairat brigade (moral brigade).

The beyghairat liberals argue that such a code is superfluous and ridiculous. They believe that enforcing such a code is unnecessary considering that the students are adults; they can decide for themselves what is right and wrong. They don’t need a code like this to try enforcing such decisions.

The ghairat brigade supports the implementation of a dress code, claiming that this code prevents ‘vulgarity’ on campus. Furthermore, they claim that it is in keeping with the moral and social traditions of Pakistan that will help improve the university’s image.

I’m sure you, dear reader, will reach your own conclusion about occurrences such as this. However, being the beyghairat liberal that I am, I fully and whole-heartedly disagree and disapprove of the ban by National Textile University (NTU), Faisalabad.

My own reasons are personal, as well as principled.

Here’s a little something that happened to me while I was in a university in Karachi that laid down similar rules for its (mostly female) students. It specifically asked girls to wear a dupatta. I was at their orientation ceremony and almost about to doze off while listening to the stories of the university’s glorious past when I heard this particular rule. I suddenly came out of the reverie.

“I must wear a dupatta at all times? Why?” I asked.

“Because it’s the rule. You have to follow the rule.”

“But that makes no sense.”

“Sorry. You have to follow the rules.”

I was in a state of disbelief. I was transported to the time when I was a kid and I used to watch these plays during the Zia/Nawaz era; when women on Pakistani Television were supposed to wear dupattas on their heads. The women would be running in the desert and they’d have a dupatta on their heads. They’d be asleep and dreaming but they’d have a dupatta on their heads. They’d be cooking, cleaning – everything would be done with a dupatta on their heads.

Just like today, that had made no sense to me.

This is forceful moral policing. It is an insistence that morality somehow correlates to the length of the sleeves of our shirts. It is a regulation of what the professors of the institute find ‘vulgar’, which is when someone wears a t-shirt with a logo on it.

It’s subjective.

No educational institute should have the power to dictate students so arbitrarily. What may be offensive to one person (how can someone watch a show like Game of Thrones?) may be completely okay for another person (Valar Morghulis, dude). What may seem immoral to you (sleeveless t-shirt on a woman, gasp!) may be completely acceptable for someone else (sleeveless saris and blouses are a regular part of some Indian cultures).

What gives an education institution the right to police clothes in such a manner?

The Pakistani moral brigade’s increasing obsession with vulgarity and dress code is becoming quite a pain, frankly.

Pakistan’s educational institutions should be far more concerned about religious extremism and teaching their students to respect women (or anyone else for that matter) regardless of what they’re wearing. They should be taught that morality is not decided by your t-shirt, but by the kindness and empathy you show others. They should be taught that a woman wearing a dupatta or not wearing a dupatta deserve equal amounts of respect and courtesy. They should be taught how wrong slut-shaming is, and how right liberty can be, what’s wrong with censorship and what’s right about freedom.

As you grow older, as you progress towards the more ‘practical’ and professional part of your life, it becomes increasingly important for young adults to understand the moral grey areas.

And yet, with steps like these, students are more likely to become intolerant of other people and their cultures. They will also be, in all likelihood, fascistic and bigoted about their own versions of reality and would also be first in line to slut-shame women and perpetuate misogyny.

And that, my friends, oversteps the purpose of an education entirely.


Mahwash Badar

The author is a clinical psychologist, a mum to two boys and permanently in a state of flux. She tweets @mahwashajaz_ (

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

  • Hady

    And the irony is that the above said university also has Department of Fashion Design.Recommend

  • Qasim Cheema

    I find it absolutely astounding what type of logics are presented on such types of articles. The first thing to be cleared is that the constitution of Pakistan says it is an Islamic Republic with the Supreme Authority being Allah. Thus, our moral code is simply the Islamic law. Not western or personal or subjective or xyz, it is Islam. Now that that is established your so called “logic” is irrelevant. If this moral code is not acceptable to you or anyone else then they should live where their moral code aligns with the society’s morale code. No need to force change. This type of forcing your own personal beliefs on others is not far off jihadists trying to forcefully implement their own version of islam where its not wanted!Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Everyone interprets the religion his/her way. Involving in petty matters such as dress is the invention of human minds.Recommend

  • vinsin

    How she is forcing personal beliefs?Recommend

  • vinsin

    Such opinions are only possible in a liberal society. Only a true secular society can become a liberal society. Author argument based on Freedom of expression goes against TNT and Pakistan being an Islamic state. Did the author circumcise her boys or allowed them to decide?Recommend

  • Anushe

    I hear you sista!Recommend

  • Ali S

    People like you are proof why ‘Islamic republics’ like Pakistan are destined for inevitable failure – we have no moral code whatsoever, and our interpretation of ‘Islamic law’ is a myopic, disastrous one which only projects a bad image of this beautiful religion.Recommend

  • Sidra

    I agree with the author completely..Coming from a lower middle class, conservative family I have seen such incidents quite often and myself have been a target for such teasing. A couple of weeks ago my sister told me an interesting but distressing incident. She works on a news channel. A colleague of her with long beard who had hardly ever talked to my sister, approached her and told her in some self-righteous manner not to wear “tights” that my sister usually wear with long shirts. She was kind of upset. I wonder what kind of gherat birgade is this society producing. Stepping on someone’s rights, giving pompous lectures to everyone we can lay our hands on is taught as being morally correct.Recommend

  • Keyboard Soldier

    Islam forbids Muslim women to reveal their skin. There is nothing in the order that goes against the basic tenants of Shariah.

    You either follow Islam or you don’t. The teachings are pretty much clear when it comes to women’s position with respect to the way they are suppose to dress.Recommend

  • fze

    Faisalabad has always known to be an extremist hub. According to Ali Gillani after being abducted he was kept in faisalabad for 2 months. This and all the other events taking place in the city points to the fact that all is not well in the city.Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    Allah is managing billions of galaxies.Moral codes are subject to human interpretation..Recommend

  • Adil

    Totally agree

  • Noman Zuberi

    While i completely agree with your point of every woman deserving the same amount of respect, i completely disagree with almost everything else. You see madam, when you mention culture and the fact that sleeveless and belly showing saaris are completely ok in India, doesnt mean they should be ok here too. Most people in pakistan are muslim and have different cultural norms than their Hindu counter parts, that was after all one of the major reasons for demanding a seperate muslim state. Besides which, higher educational institutes have full right to institute a dress code just as most offices and schools do. why single out that one area of people’s lives from it, and yes these restrictions do not only target female students but male ones too. National textile University is not the only University to do this and nor should it be. The ‘moral brigade’ is ‘increasingly obsessed’ with vulgarity because it is becomingly alarmingly common. They see everything they hold dear and see it being flushed away with the tide of ‘globalizatuion’ and they are not alone many countries who hold their own customs and traditions in high esteem are fighting back in the east as well as the best. If you dont like the ‘restrictions’ here, you can always go to some other country where you can roam around as you please be it a burka or your birthday suit…..Recommend

  • Noman Zuberi

    Apparently ani Islamic and anti pakistan comments are fine but when someone posts something reasonable your ‘freedom of speech’ disappaers into thin air….Recommend

  • S Khan

    And there are people pretty much like you who rage and whine when France or other countries impose ban on niqab Recommend

  • Nana

    Excuse me sir, you are the one forcing your kind of sharia upon others. Recommend

  • Saleh Kakar

    Every institution has rules! And you have to follow those rules. Period.

    And if you are so worried about such rules, then choose a different institution for yourself.Recommend

  • Saleh Kakar

    Dress code is a norm at clubs, restaurants and some universities around the globe so what’s wrong with this??

    It has nothing to do with judging someone.Recommend

  • Saleh Kakar

    Dress code is a norm at clubs, restaurants and some universities around the globe so what’s wrong with this??
    It has nothing to do with judging someone.Recommend

  • Usman Khan

    If you don’t like the rules go somewhere else. Its plain and simple. but instead you are going to whine about it and try to enforce your thoughts on other people. Whats make you different from the bearded guy who told Sidra’s sister ( the girl who commented and related a story about a guy in her sister’s office) not to wear tights. I just wasted my time educating an illogical person who is a typical millennial and thinks the world owes her everything.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So all women should wear a Burka? Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So you agree that banning headscarf in France is OK?Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    So you agree that rules banning headscarf in France are OK?Recommend

  • only truth is nature

    In those times ,people used to pick up forceably the beauties.In civilized countries,showing skin is not a problemRecommend

  • Tulsum

    People are at university to get educated – not to follow some people’s view of how they should dress. How one dresses has nothing to do with getting an education. That is a personal choice and those people who are bothered by it should reflect on their own way of viewing womenRecommend

  • Read Below

    Quranic revelations cannot be challenged as per Muslim law. There are no ifs and buts in Shariah.Recommend

  • Mian Arsal

    I myself studied at a one of the prestigious Christian Institutions for 6 long years and guess what I observed was that even they have some strict rules regarding clothing irrespective of sex. If you don’t like switch your institution period…. no need to impose your opinion. WHEN IN ROME DO AS ROMANS DO…!!!Recommend

  • shahid

    Actually it is the length of the Daarhi which establishes how much mentally crooked you are and how much Badh Neeyat you are.. ; Blaming others, specially women is the call of the day all Daarhis cherish and strive for; It is these daarhis who are the root cause of instability of the social fabric of my Pakistan. In time they will be forced to be clean shave.. just in time it will happen; sit back and watch.. these daarhis will run for their lives.Recommend

  • Awais Imran

    I do not go for long debate, please spend a few minutes to watch following video;

  • Alter Ego

    Contrary to popular belief , every country around the globe has some kind of dress code.
    You can not wear everything everywhere.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Almost everywhere everyone follows some kind of dress code,
    Just open the web-page of any university, you will find a dress code.
    Open the dress code for working in a hospital.
    Different dress codes represent different things , doctors are dressed in white , usually with full sleeves.
    Lawyers are dressed in black.
    In any multi national you will be expected to dress formally,not too “flirty” and not too “stuffy”.
    Students are generally expected to portray a serious attitude while in university.
    After university hours you can do what you want.Recommend

  • Nana

    And here lies the problem. Whoever has tutored you forgot to tell you about the background of certain orders in Islam. When Islam came there were slaves, Hazrat Bilal was a slave. Do we have slaves now? Definitely not.My dear brother, Islam does not remain confined in 1400 years ago. If it has to survive then it has to evolve according to the times keeping the basics intact. And the very basic is ‘lailaha illalahu….’ And 5 tenants of Islam. The rest you adopt keeping modesty in mind. Recommend

  • Nana

    Why all the men are in favour of certain dress code? Shows their mentality. Is their any binding on men of any kind???Recommend

  • Ahmed Amin Malik

    I disagree to the author: University has all the right to impose such restrictions: Come on, they are not forcing you to wear Burqas but often, the young students go too far in their race of fashion statements and young impressionate minds need to be controlled a little: It will do more good than harm.Recommend

  • SuperNeo™

    “Thus, our moral code is simply the Islamic law. Not western or personal or subjective or xyz”
    Btw in Pakistan people pray every Friday for Western countries Visas only .also Paksitanis are number citizens deported from western countries also in illegal immigration to western countries (read non |s|amic here) .

    you are just highlighting the confuses life style anf faith peoples are following.
    Pakistanis are not who is supreme power China, KSA , USA or what you’r saying.Recommend

  • Mohammad Saif ud din

    I strongly agreed with your ideas we have to tell the persons that the most auspicious method is to convince anyone instead of imposing anything. To impose something forcefully can produce the rebellions not the traitors.The real aspect is that we love to debate about that subject in order to confuse the religion not to clarify .Our religion is the name of peace not the quarrel.As you described every culture has its identification.So islam has a very ancient cultural history which is valuable to their followers.Islam rules are very clear and very obvious .In the end,i will say a person should not defend the evil but should accept what is right or not.Code of conduct should be made according to one’s cultureRecommend

  • Alter Ego

    Actually yes,
    Men cant wear shorts .
    Men cant go to class shirtless.
    Yes , not only women but men too are subject to some laws.
    By the way , this ban has very little to do with Islam and most to do with maintaining a professional environment that is productive for studying.Recommend

  • Mahnoor Mirza

    So is there any dress code mentioned in the constitution? No! So don’t try to turn Pakistan into Saudi or Iran where people are told what to wear and what not to wear…Why should those people who dress however they want live anywhere else? there is no law forcing someone to abide by any dress code.. then who is mullah brigade to moral police people? instead of telling others to leave , people who love to moral police others should move to Saudi where they have a dress code… and please stop forcing Islam on people.. If someone is not dressing according Islam then it is none of your concern… You can’t force them to follow Islam. Keep your religion to yourself.. You are the one forcing people to dress according to your beliefs.Recommend

  • Mahnoor Mirza

    So forcing people to follow islam is ok? Yes you either follow islam or not and if someone isn’t , you don’t shove it down their throats.Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    Question to you repeated!
    So all women should wear a burka?????Recommend

  • numbersnumbers

    You failed to note that University is looking for absolute control!Recommend

  • hussain safdar

    This article is written by a person who is suffering with too many complexes including not to be born in westRecommend

  • ceerah

    Their is no compulsion in deen. End of story.
    Hold on youe “islamic republic of pakistan” and Shariah comments etc.Recommend

  • ceerah

    There is no compulsion in deen. Let everyone practice islam as they please.Recommend

  • maz3tt

    LOL.very very typical confused daisy blog. did you watch titanic , elegant wore full sleeves, full blouse etc. You know what Un-elegants wore. i don’t believe it has changed overtime everywhere. being progress doesn’t mean less clothes. I am a paindu. i am progress :)

    we people always try to go ‘do hath agai’ in following the west. so sad. please don’t put your logic as Allah has already place it’s logic. Woman can’t show her body to na mahram.

    Also there was a girl in my class who use to show her midriff. She didn’t do it for long as she has to abide by the complain of the teacher. what would be the reaction of the girls to the boy who would have come to the class in shorts!!. .

    so my point is that at least culturally there should be limit to everything. boy and girl can’t dress in a certain way. the western society has gone out of control in the wrong way because they consider it as the violation of the their freedom of expression. The law or rules are there to see that the limit is met which the author found it in bad taste.Recommend

  • Nana

    How how about supporting foot long beard and having ankle length trousers for men with cap on head? I think this should be the dress code for men in faisalabad university. This will keep their mind focused on education instead of looking around who is wearing what. BTW, the author is not asking for a permission to wear a bikini.Recommend

  • Alter Ego

    Well then, how about a complete head to toe burqa for the women.
    The university is not asking that , is it?
    The university is trying to maintain an environment of modernity.Recommend

  • Hammurabi

    Does it mean ,specific situation is not relevant?Then why the thieves were pardoned by the Khalifa during a drought though they desereved the sentence according to Islamic Laws.Recommend

  • farhaj

    this dress code fight again. I will say one simple thing that can solve all problems, which is complete obedience to Islam. Yes Islam truly is the solution to our problems. And if we truly abide to Islam then, ‘We should not have co education or co workplaces at the first place!!!!!!’.
    How hard is it to understand this simple logic? that can make both sides happy. You just don’t put ladies with men and you solve all issues. Yes parda is still necessary as per Islam but not as much in a pure female based organization is it? and yet we have this dress code fight all over the place while it does not have to be this way.
    This would be the true Islamic solution people, that no one advocates for even the beard ones. You can dress in 1000 pardas and it still won’t be good if u don’t have the parda of heart. plz I am not degrading parda but try to understand my viewpoint. Which is exactly what we have today, just parda on females and beards on males who chat freely, mix freely, tell me what’s the use of this? In fact in some instances, this parda has become a license to intermingle with the opposite gender.
    So as true Muslims, we should try to separate males from females in all aspects of life by creating a parallel system for both the genders that meet the requirements of them both. If u have the budget for one co university, why not divide it into two and make it separate for boys and girls and vice versa.
    This way we can solve all such issues including completely eradicating any chances of assault on females or discriminatory behavior and believe me this is more Islamic than any other way around.Recommend

  • PatelPara

    The discussion would end the moment you change Islamic republic of Pakistan to Pakistan. First do that! until then have some ghairat :)Recommend