Submission and Obedience in the name of ‘sharm’ and ‘ghairat’

Posted on January 26, 2011 by

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Pakistani Media representation and Veena Malik (Part II)

by Nadia Siddiqui

When I wrote my previous article on Veena Malik, I never thought that the controversy would become such a serious national issue of honor and representation. It is really strange that under such critical circumstances of war against terrorism, we are confused to adopt any position of mediation in any social and political sphere. With a critical view on current situation in Pakistan, one can see that the religious forces and liberal voices have emerged on the surface with very visible clashes. Any rising case is seen either with a religious point of view or with liberal understanding. In this wave of confusion and clashes of paradigms, Veena Malik’s performance in an Indian show became a site of addressing these conflicts.

The performance of Veena Malik was debated in different spheres of media where varied positions were adopted in the debates. The sensitivity of Veena Malik’s Muslim identity was the most targeted position of the religious authorities which was intertwined with her identity as being a Pakistani citizen. The complication rises at a point where Veena Malik is given a further responsibility of preserving the ‘honor’ of a Muslim woman, especially when she is working on Indian media screen.


The media personnel brings experts from different field such as Syed Noor, Ali Saleem, Attiqa Odho, Sania Ahmed and an open court of inquiry is set up on our TV screens. Veena appears as a national criminal to justify her conduct on the Indian show. The anchors bombard her with criticism and in various instances the experts label her as being ‘begairat’ and ‘besharm’ who defamed the image of Pakistan. It is important to ask is there any image of Pakistan which needs to be appropriated in front of the world after Salman Taseer’s murder. There is so much to say about Veena’s affirmative stance and her confidence to face all the accusation that this limited space will not be enough. I would just say in one line that Veena Malik was just amazingly prepared to fight back all the accusations and she stood upright against all odds of religious bigotry and male chauvinism.

In one of the talk show, Syed Noor’s attitude was very demeaning where he demanded a public apology from Veena and used expressions to belittle Veena as her sister and junior colleague. As a cultural and social practice it is very common to see in cross gender arguments that men often use the tactic of bringing a woman to that of some personal relation. The same strategy was adopted by Maulana Qavi, where he repeatedly called Veena her sister and used an advising tone to seek a public apology on her conduct. The discourse to construct unequal relationship between two opposite genders is quite discriminatory and one could notice the function of expression such as, ‘Meri choti behan,’ ‘Beta’, and ‘Beti’. Such linguistic expression along with the use of ‘Madam’ and ‘Sir’ in official work places and academic institutions is direly needed to be banned if we really want to hear the voices without any delusion of respect and fake morality.

Another perspective of Atiqa Odho was seemingly very much in favor of Veena Malik, but her anti-Indian sentiments were more dominant in making any fair statements. As it is quite visible that Atiqa Odho is one such Pakistani who believes that one day we would pluck India from a world map and would finally throw it in an Atlantic ocean, to get rid of all miseries in Pakistan. It is such an irony that our educated class of people who are liberated as well have failed to understand that the past has gone and the future is more important to secure for our coming generation. We can never detach India from our boundary and the only solution left for us is to make this crocodile our friend and struggle hard for survival.

The media pressure on Veena Malik has increased to seek the public apology. But there is a little glimpse of hope that the supporters of Veena Malik would never let her fall. If Veena Malik submit apology under the pressure of this wave, her powerful voice will vanish into a long period of despair and darkness for Pakistani women. The hope of resistance against fundamentalism and hegemonic patriarchy will not emerge until another woman will suffer victimization of the dominating force.

It is really an important stage in the history of feminism in our nation that powerful voices of the weaker sex have made themselves heard at the same moment. Sherry Rehman and Veena Malik are fighting on seemingly different issues, but their agendas merge at one point where we see Pakistani women being a victim of dogmatic beliefs and superficial standards of social morality.

The writer is a academic with research interests in gender and media.

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Posted in: Gender, Media