Hijab, Santa and the Christmas spirit

Published: December 29, 2010

My friends and I went to Saint Anthony's Church in the Clifton area of Karachi.

Earlier this month my class mates and I were given an assignment on interfaith awareness between Muslims and Christians. Over the past decade the two communities have not had very warm relations especially since after 9/11.

My friends and I felt nervous about this task as we had never interacted with a member of the Christian faith before. We were oblivious to what their traditions were and how they would react to us. I was particularly panicky because I wear a veil and hijaab. Will they even talk to me, I wondered. Our project required that we take photographs of a church, prayer ceremony and have a dialogue with a religious leader.

My friends and I went to Saint Anthony’s Church in the Clifton area of Karachi. After we gave the head of the church, Joaquim, a letter from our university explaining the project he arranged a meeting with Father Roby for us.

The father was very pleased to hear about our project. He spoke to us respectfully and answered all of our questions. He invited  us to come to church and meet him any time. He assured us that he will help us in every possible way regarding our project.

On Christmas we had to go to church again to take pictures that showed how Christians celebrated the holiday. We entered the church, without prior notice but everyone was happy to see us. Joaquim let us stay for Christmas service and invited us to attend a party for the children on December 26. We were amazed at how warm and welcoming everyone was at the party. We were permitted to take pictures of everyone – including Santa Claus!

This experience was a great experience for me and my friends. I am really happy that I met such nice people. I wish all the Muslims and Christians could have such interactions, so misunderstandings could be greatly reduced.


Tuba Shah

A journalism student at Bahria University in Karachi who is interested in communication and culture.

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

  • http://zohaibather.com Zohaib

    Nice article, Tuba !Recommend

  • Talha

    Lol at the picture.Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org Marina Khan

    That must have been a great experience for you. These different experience make our mind more open. Christmas can be celebrated by us also, because we also believe in jesus but as a ProphetRecommend

  • rukun

    hmm. this looks like content for young worldRecommend

  • Bano

    What did you expect? That they would be aliens that would be surprised to see a veiled woman?
    I appreciate the idea of inter-faith interaction, but this piece didn’t make any real point.
    That is all. Thanks.Recommend

  • Hasan Adeel

    Great job,keep doing like this and best of luck…Recommend

  • Farooq

    Can we drink wine to express solidarity with Christians?Recommend

  • kalim

    good one!!!Recommend

  • Junaid

    @Marina Khan:

    why don’t you first invite them to celebrate Eid(s) and Fast in Ramazan?Recommend

  • http://www.bonfriends.org Marina Khan

    @Junaid: I invite them for Eid, and they come with lots of presents. Celebration doesnt mean that you have to believe in that also. I dont believe in jesus as son of god but jesus as the Prophet, so i celebrate. Even hindus celebrate it with christians…they dont believe in jesus at all. So junaid, i think you should understand the feeling of happiness.Recommend

  • AHR

    The article/ blog should have been tagged under the kids section. Recommend

  • Tuba Shah

    thanx who appreciated….
    they were reallly surprised to seea veil femaile in the church even the behaviour at first visit was quit discouraging my friends had to ask special permission for me to enter into the church when we had to interview the Father, people were looking at me as if i was a terrorist.
    but when we got special permission the behaviour was quite acceptable but still the security guard tried to force me that i should unveil myself but when they got to know that we have taken special permission they were some what ok but ultimately it was a nice experience.
    i wish western world could also accept the Muslim women with veil because we all know the discriminating behaviour of europians and of amercans to the Muslims who wear veil and Hijab.Recommend

  • Zunaira

    G0od w0rk tubz itz realy awsum :)Recommend

  • http://grsalam.wordpress.com Ghausia

    Tuba I really liked this, it was very sweet. Its a pity so many people take these things negatively. I like how honest you were about your own anxiety, even I shy away from veiled girls sometimes out of fear that they might start preaching at me to reform my ways, you must have expected the Christians there to do the same. Considering how much friction there is b/w the two religions, its encouraging to see that some people still attempt to reach out and remove such misunderstandings. Good work. :)Recommend

  • Salemah Shah

    Good work tooba, well we should tell Sir about your this thing :D

  • maleeha sami

    Good job Tuba! yeah we should tell sir.
    that’s the only problem with the people that they don’t appreciate rather criticize negatively. Keep it up Tuba! :)Recommend

  • Rizvi

    Let this be your first step towards understanding other faiths Tuba. Do not forget to cross post this article to your blog. And if you want, we can talk about your followup piece in class. Recommend

  • http://www.pakspectator.com Sana Saleem

    Christians may be rude in their homelands but here christians have to be nice to muslims as this is an Islamic state and same is the case with the Muslims in christian or countries of other religion.Recommend

  • http://www.sidrahmoizkhan.blogspot.com Sidrah Moiz Khan

    @ Tuba
    Sorry dear, not a successful attempt. And what do you mean you looked like a terrorist? Why don’t you guys just get over this hijabis-are-taliban thing! Get a life dude.Recommend

  • http://Karachi Farhan Zaheer

    Ohhhh friends …come on!

    Those who think its childish stuff or to post such thing….I believe, many a times we need to learn from children.

    Very good work!…Hope that this will be the first step towards peace and interfaith harmony in Pakistan. Recommend

  • Zohra Nishan

    @Sana Saleem – What data do you have to make a statement like ” Christians may be rude in their homelands but here Christians have to be nice to Muslims” You need to do a little more research before you make these blanket statements.
    There is a vast amount of historical evidence that Catholics, Christians and Goans have been an integral part to the contribution of Pakistan.
    @Tuba Shah I am surprised that you were amazed “….behavior at first visit was quite discouraging…?” – After all the bombings that are constantly taking place in Karachi! Do you think wearing a veil and Hijaab. that you would be automatically excluded being considered as a safe visitor?
    Don’t you think that the discriminating behavior of Europeans and Americans to the Muslims who wear veil and Hijab may be justified as women in veil and Hijab are being recruited by your Taliban brothers to spread mayhem and terror.Recommend

  • tuba shah

    taliban arent my brothers, nor em a taliban or a terrorist, but people on the who are unaware that why a Muslim Women wear veils and Hijabs thinks that a woman in veil might be hiding sth mysterious or suspicious, but those wo know the reason they respect such women…. and here comes my ans that why christians were amazed to see me in the church though i had my other Muslim friends along with me, they dont knw the reason thats why they might have considered me a dangerous person but when they interacted me their perception changed at the end of the day,
    people must not be judged my their dressing, every human is free what he/she wants to do in her life, i dont force others to veil themselves, but i dont want others to judge me on my veil… this is my point here
    how can europians and americans are justified, they themselves say that people have the right of self freedom and every one is free to follow ant religion they want, so how can they judge a women on her dressing,
    there might be some people who can be unsafe and they might not wear hijab or veil, wearing hijab/veil doesnt show that you are a unsafe person,,,
    hope yew got itRecommend

  • Zohra Nishan

    @Tuba Shah _ I am sorry I did not mean to insinuate that you are a member of Taliban or a terrorist. People should not be discriminated by the preferred dress is a good feel statement but reality tends to show the opposite. Even in the most leading countries there is discrimination period and can be about gender, ethnic heritage or skin color.For any one to say discrimination does not exist is a pithy statement.
    Lets not confuse self freedom/religions with danger. Since there are women terrorists that use the veil & hiijab and as a result have painted a stain against good women who are being wrongly discriminated. If women in saris did the same thing then unfortunately they too would be treated in a similar fashion. Everyone is free to practice their religion in America as I have. I have enjoyed all the freedoms available to all Americans, but because of the terrorist actions of a few I too at times suffer prejudice not only from locals but even from other ethnic countries.
    You have to agree that the Pakistani government and their non-existent public relations media have done a ghastly job to educate the west that most Muslims do not share the twisted violent deeds of the fringe element who feel no pain in local terrorism.
    We applaud your school for giving you an assignment on interfaith awareness between Muslims and Christians. That you were able to share this experience and initiate a conversation so that minorities can feel safer and contribute to the greatness of the land Recommend

  • http://visualpeacemakers.org Mario

    I am a Christian photographer living in a Muslim country. I have had the reverse (positive) experience in Mosques and at Eid celebrations many, many, many times! It’s refreshing to hear about a Muslim woman also having a positive experience photographically and relationally with Christians and their Christmas practices. Even though it didn’t all go perfect, you reported on the positive, Tuba. I do the same.

    Images and media shape our worldviews so strongly! I’m excited to see some reporting here that is positive and that heals mistrust. I am part of a movement that aims to do this, too.

    We are gathering visual communicators from around the world to share images that break down harmful stereotypes. Check it out visualpeacemakers.org. If you are NOT a photographer, you can still sign and affirm our Charter for Visual Peace which calls all to responsible image viewing. visualpeacemakers.org/about/charter


  • tuba shah

    @ Zohara
    Yes it is true that discrimination does exist, but this is what we actually trying to remove, and it can be minimized even within the society of liberal minded people. It’s true we can eradicate its signs from the world but we can try to eliminate it on a small platform then may be a larger one. The need is to talk about this, to talk about interfaith awareness, to talk about understanding and excepting each other with all equal rights.
    Yes it is also true that there are some women with hijab/veils who are involved in bomb attacks,
    But why to discriminate every single women with hijab/veil, we have to change this stereotyped perception, and what do you think women in saris or other women around the world even in west are not involved in criminal activities, who are in jails…. But here we don’t see every women with discrimination, I mean why we don’t consider all the women criminals if some are involved in such activities,,,,,
    If we don’t do discrimination here, then why with veiled women??
    Again I am agreed with you that Pakistani media has portrayed Pakistan as a violent country, that why people don’t invest here, everyone wants to leave the country, again I want to say then why we are here… it’s my and every Pakistanis responsibility to correct the image of Pakistan in front of outer world.
    We cannot just sit in our couches and see or comment on the conditions of Pakistan and its insight to the west,,, we have to change such perception for which I am here and I know there are many more people like me who are working in this regard.
    People like you have to stop criticism and you try to understand the actual reason of this interfaith awareness program. You live in US, you can do a lot, if you are from Pakistan it’s also your responsibility as well to change the stereotype opinion.Recommend

  • tuba shah

    We are also working to change stereotype perception, we have interacted with some Christians here in Pakistan regarding our project, and they were really were gentle with us, if they can be friendly then why not other….
    I have some photographs which I would like to share with the world for visual peace.Recommend