Having an opinion about Veena Malik, much like Veena’s clothing itself, is strictly optional. What is not acceptable is occupying a position of neutrality in the fight between Veena and her holier-than-thou critics. Veena Malik’s nude photo shoot in FHM India, which she and her publicist are claiming was doctored but the magazine’s editor insists was genuine, is not something to give our enthusiastic support to. One of the greatest mistakes liberals make is to support every action that upsets the morality brigade rather than to argue for the principle that each individual is free to choose their own path, no matter how wrong-headed it may be, so long as it doesn’t harm others. What we must be ready to do is enthusiastically defend Veena from the attacks that are sure to come her way.
Even more important is to fight back against the vision for Pakistan that the likes of Veena’s attackers are trying to impose on us. For them, the country should be a soulless place where diversity is not permitted and women are to be kept cloaked. This is not to say that one is at all condoling indecency; rather, the point is that we need to be less controlling and judgemental as far as women are concerned. That they are willing to enforce this vision with the force of arms only adds to the case against them. Pakistan is a country large enough to accommodate the likes of both Veena Malik and Mufti Naeem.
Moreover what is being completely ignored is that Veena’s side is denying the photo shoot ever took place. Regardless of the denial, we are quick to judge her, as we have been quick to judge other women. As a society, we seem to unfairly subject women to a much higher standard, indicative of a misogynist/patriarchal mindset. Even if she has done the photo shoot, there will be those who will accuse her of doing it only for shock value, for deliberately offending the sensibilities of the majority of the nation. They may well be right. But Pakistan should not become a country where something is banned simply because a lot of people don’t like it. The rights due to minorities should extend to minority opinions and actions that may not be to the liking of the majority. That is the very essence of a tolerant society.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2011.
More in EditorialAn angry goodbye to Bonn