Some 200 veiled women staged a rally in front of the Lahore Press Club on Tuesday to mark World Hijab Day, but only men gave speeches.
The women were bussed in to the venue by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) on two buses. The protesters were led by Samia Raheel Qazi, the president of the JI Women and Family Commission, and Afia Sarwar, assistant secretary general of the JI Women’s Wing.
The participants waved placards and banners with statements such as: ‘My niqab, my right’; ‘Hijab empowers women’; and ‘Hijab is our identity’.
JI Secretary General Liaqat Baloch and JI Lahore chief Amirul Azeem addressed the participants. No woman gave a speech.
Baloch thanked the participants, saying they had joined in purely for their love of Islam. He said Islam gave high status to women. He said no man was allowed to physically abuse a woman or stop her from getting an education. But, he said, social norms for women and men are different, just as their bodies are different. He said it was wrong to say that the West has given women liberty. In fact, Islam gave women freedom. He said that women were exploited commercially as sexual objects in Western countries and this was not civilised behaviour. He said this practice had also ruined the institution of the family.
Baloch condemned the United States for putting Aafia Siddiqi in prison. He praised a female politician in Turkey who had decided to quit her seat rather than give up her hijab.
He said that reports that Hindu women in Sindh were being forced to convert to Islam were not true, as he had recently visited the area. He said NGOs had spread such stories in a bid to dent the image of Islam. He said Jamaat-i-Islami would work for Islamic rule in Pakistan and no one could stop them.
Azeem said in his speech that the hijab represented a woman’s dignity and was part of Pakistani civilisation. He said anti-Islam elements were always seeking to strike a blow against Islam and they were trying to steal Muslims’ identity from them. He said the West wanted to snatch the hijab from Muslim women, but they must resist.
He criticised advertising agencies and multinational companies for using women in commercials. He said women were appearing “even in commercials for razors”.
The rally ended after about an hour.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 5th, 2012.