Dare I Criticize Pakistani Fashion?
By Ziad Bashir
In this article, I am going to argue a point that I hate arguing about, mostly because the response I get to my arguments is usually far from the point, and never focuses on the entire argument I present. Dare I, a self-proclaimed liberal, argue against the direction that Pakistani fashion has taken? If I do, I risk being called a fundamentalist, some of my more enlightened friends would even go as far as to claim that I am in favour of taking freedoms away from the fashion designers, who have brought much business and good press to this country, all in the name of religion.
I better get started then.
First of all, a disclaimer: I am by no means against Pakistan’s fashion Industry. In fact, I have no problems with most of it. But I draw the line, when in my country; norms of modesty are crossed in the name of business.
As mentioned earlier I consider myself to be a liberal, a Muslim liberal. And as such, I welcome all cultures, modern practices and technology without bias no matter where in the world they originated from, as long as they are not imposed over my Islamic beliefs. Personally, I turn away from ramp walks because nobody is forcing me to watch them on TV or attend them, nor inviting me, for that matter. But as part of the same society, I oppose some of the practices of this industry because it affects the same society as mine, promoting a dress code that, I think, is unanimously considered unislamic and immoral by Islamic standards. I refer here to dresses that reveal more of a man’s or a woman’s body than is acceptable in Islam (yes, I am not just talking about female models, contrary to my repute as extremely sexist in approach to all things).
So, looking at it objectively, these Muslim designers that are otherwise doing a very good job for the industry should be more careful about what their dresses would have the model reveal. Now, I understand that perhaps some of my fellow Muslims would argue that my own standards of “modesty” are by no means agreeable to all (depending on their interpretation of the Islamic dress code), so what gives me the right to demand this? That would be a valid point if perhaps majority is of the opinion that Pakistani Fashion is perfectly ok by their religious standards. I suppose we can measure that opinion when comments start flowing in. It would give me a better idea too, am I the only one who thinks our fashion industry is going too far in this socio-cultural setup? One doesn’t have to be a Muslim to respect the sentiments of over 90% Muslim population of Pakistan.
But see, the reason I write this is not just that I myself have been offended. The situation may be direr considering that we live in a country where women are killed for honour and innocents blown up in the name of Islam. When the good guys cross the liberal extreme, the bad guys gain more ground to cross the fundamental extreme. Some of them then take matters into their own hands, misguided into believing that they are hence serving the cause of Allah. Give some regard to their beliefs, so they may respect your moderate ones. They are not aliens.
One extreme cannot exist without the other. In this country, specially, we must be careful to at least abide by the standards of the majority moderate Muslims.
Veena Malik would argue: SO THE CAUSE OF TERRORISM IN PAKISTAN IS OUR FASHION INDUSTRY? Mufti Sahab, ye kia baat hui? :@
No. But- damn -_-
Well that^ is one example of how my arguments about respecting the socio-cultural sensitivities of other Pakistanis could be twisted. It’s called straw man fallacy- I think.
So anyway, I believe the fashion industry could continue to thrive and create jobs by staying within the Islamic standards of modesty, unless those standards are redefined through arguing the interpretation of the relevant Islamic teachings. If the government is moved by the people to take action against this industry, forcing it into submission could lead to devastating results. So even from a business point of view, the Fashion Industry needs to either have a plan B, or a more flexible plan A.
I have tried to stay away from defining what is acceptable to me in fashion, because I understand that everyone’s standards may differ, however, I am sure many of you will have a limit that Pakistani fashion has crossed- this reaction from most people I know is what has given me some ground to write this. And I request that you do not judge that standard by the pictures used in this blog post.