Originally published in The Pyambar.com on 25 Feb 2013.
Sometime back, National Assembly Standing Committee for Information and Broadcasting proposed that female news anchors should compulsorily carry a dupatta when on air. FULL STOP. Without commenting further let us take a deep breath, just to relax and think again. Done? Now, read on…
Those of us who are from the single channel generation of the 80’s and 90’s must remember that the female news caster of those days, Legendary Shaista Zaid and Ishrat Fatima (later Saqib), were the true household names. Besides their poise, dignity and composure; they had a typical outlook, most iconic of which was their dupatta pinned up neatly on their heads. But the time forwarded really fast and the so called “liberalism/modernism” seeped in and the masses became “cultured” enough to appreciate the beauty, clothes, makeup and moves of female anchors/news casters.
Simultaneously, the dupatta slipped from the head to shoulders and even below before fading away. However, a few points emerged prominently after analyzing the issue thoroughly:
1. Let’s first decide how big a threat a “dupatta-less” female news caster/anchor is to our moral, social, religious, and cultural values (if any of them is left).
Some equally important questions are: is she alone in doing so? And is a good looking, well educated female anchor/host/news caster a bigger threat to our values than the glamorous, half literate and spoiled actresses (not all) appearing in every next TV serial, who are trying harder and harder to get away with “unnecessary clothing items”? Thus, if female news casters/anchors have to wear a dupatta, then justice requires that every female appearing on our TV screens (be it morning shows, cooking shows, TV soaps and commercials) does the same as well. Are we ready for that?
2. The next problem is what this “dupatta mentality” is all about? By imposing dupatta, do we unconsciously want to follow the teachings of Islam about women?
If this is the case, then sorry to say the intent might be good, but the reasoning is pathetic. The Islamic teachings about women being in public and the hiding of head hair are unanimously agreed upon (there are differences in opinions about hiding the face). Here, the dupatta fails to do justice to this teaching in most cases; even if it is on the head (I still remember the pitch black hair of respected news caster Ishrat Fatima with the dupatta on her head). Thus, the “religious” reasoning of dupatta is also bogus.
3. Thirdly, if women without dupatta are some type of threat to our moral and cultural values, then what about those cute looking, clean shaved, makeup plastered male news casters/anchors, who appear on our screens daily?
Keeping this “dangerous aspect” in mind, why not have this opinion in place as well that all male news casters/anchors should appear with a decent looking beard, which besides being a safety measure, would be in exact consistency with our religious teachings.
4. Fourthly, why should this “dupatta rule” be limited to the female news casters/anchors, who happen to be just regular working women? What about our women cricket team, our female politicians, lady doctors, office workers, air hostesses, female lawyers, nurses, school/college/university students/teachers, film actresses and even female sex workers. Each of these females has a circle of influence and as per the “dupatta mentality,” each one is a potential threat ready to blow our cultural and moral values (whatever is left…).
5. Fifth, at one end we are so moderate, liberal and accommodating that we allow B grade actresses like “Veena Malik” to bring shame to the nation with nothing on her body and at the other end, we are trying to save our so called “morality” by putting dupattas on female anchors/news casters. Why so much dichotomy?
Let’s come out of that 80’s and 90’s “dupatta mentality.” Our religion is far more accommodating and clear on these aspects. In the true spirit of Islam, let’s have the courage to pass a law based on Shariah in the “Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” where every man is supposed to keep a beard and every woman should observe Hijab through the use of a dupatta, scarf, burqa or whatever she prefers.
If that cannot be done (due to political, social, cultural or similar reasons), let’s keep our mouths shut.