Protecting arts: ‘Why criticise dance instead of terrorism?’

Published: October 15, 2016
Holds press conference in response to PTI MPA's letter calling for a ban on dance. PHOTO: EXPRESS

Holds press conference in response to PTI MPA's letter calling for a ban on dance. PHOTO: EXPRESS

KARACHI: At a time when the country is marred by grave vices such as terrorism and radicalisation, why would Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) lawmaker Khurram Sher Zaman choose to target something as harmless as the practice of dance?

Classical dancer and social activist Sheema Kermani raised this question at a press conference by Tehrik-e-Niswan at Karachi Press Club on Friday. The conference was held in response to the PTI lawmaker’s letter, written to the Sindh education minister on September 21, which called for a ban on teaching dance at private schools.

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Kermani stressed that dance has been part of the history of our land, which goes back to the Indus Valley Civilisation. According to her, the art is a symbol of a tolerant and peaceful society. She said that today they are forbidding us from dancing, later they will ask us not to breathe. She was of the view that since dance, which is an important part of our culture, provides an appeasing effect on our health and aesthetics, it should be added to the curriculum of schools instead of being forbidden.

Criticising Zaman’s move, Kermani said that the MPA should have at least studied the history of our land where Sufi saints such as Bulleh Shah, Sachal Sarmast, Lal Shahbaz Qalandar and Shah Abdul Latif Bhittai promoted dance, music and arts.

Kermani demanded that PTI chairperson Imran Khan should make public his stance on the issue, adding that he should deny and condemn Zaman’s move and publicly apologise to the people working for the promotion of arts and culture in the country. She stressed that demanding a ban on dance has hurt their feelings.

She recalled how when a ban on dance was imposed by former military dictator General Ziaul Haq, only cultural dance was banned while no action was taken against vulgar mujras. She added that the reason why the youth began to adopt vulgar dances is because our cultural and folk dance was banned. She added that youngsters then had less knowledge about the traditional dance, which is why they adopted the culture and dance of other societies.

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Speaking on the occasion, Women Action Forum (WAF) representative Qurrat Mirza pointed out that if PTI wants to practice politics in Sindh, they need to learn about the history of the province whose people respect the culture of arts and dance and will condemn anyone who is against it. Mirza equated the attack on dance with an attack on Sufism as the practice was propagated by the saints.

She emphasised that the only reason PTI’s public meetings become successful is because of dance and music, otherwise no one would like to attend their events. She suggested that the party, in their next public meeting, should experiment by organising the event without the music and they will see the result for themselves.

Representatives of Pakistan institute of Labour Education and Research, Aurat Foundation and Human Rights Commission of Pakistan were also present at the conference.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 15th, 2016.

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