Pakistan’s first super model

Published: July 1, 2012
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From jiu-jitsu to baking, action stunts and sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion modelKhattak could carry off anything.

From jiu-jitsu to baking, action stunts and sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion modelKhattak could carry off anything.

From jiu-jitsu to baking, action stunts and sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion modelKhattak could carry off anything. From jiu-jitsu to baking and action stunts to sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion model Rakhshanda Khattak could carry off anything in style. From jiu-jitsu to baking and action stunts to sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion model Rakhshanda Khattak could carry off anything in style. From jiu-jitsu to baking and action stunts to sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion model Rakhshanda Khattak could carry off anything in style. From jiu-jitsu to baking and action stunts to sexy dresses, ‘70s fashion model Rakhshanda Khattak could carry off anything in style.

No fashion model of the 1970s got paid in the thousands, except for the larger-than-life Rakhshanda Khattak, who had to travel a rough road to make a name for herself in the still fledgling Pakistani fashion industry.

Once, her husband Husain Javeri, a jeweller who hardly ever skipped work, decided to accompany her to a modeling gig. After watching his wife having to bend, stretch and contort her body for the perfect pose, and that too for the pittance she was being paid, he approached the advertisement director and demanded his wife be paid ten times the amount to make it worth her time. That was the amount of money someone would have to pay him to be away from his wife, he said. The director was shocked but since he could not afford to lose her, he agreed. Following this incident, Rakhshanda went on to become the highest-paid and yet the most sought after young model of her time.

The Burmese-Pathan woman had her photos splashed across fashion layouts in various English and Urdu magazines. She did commercials ranging from products such as paints and toothpaste. She boasted a height many envied, and could drape her curvaceous figure — a far cry from the anorexic waif look of the New York and Paris fashion world that has caught up with Pakistani models — in a classical sari or sashay about in casual bell bottoms, and still look desirable. When she entered a room, heads turned as men stealthily gazed at her while women inspected her style.

Besides being gifted by exotic looks, she was a woman of many talents. Rakhshanda was fluent in five languages. She was the first Pakistani woman to earn a black belt in karate and the second black belt in Jiu-jitsu. This helped her execute her own stunts in an action-packed feature film named Jane Bond 008 in 1971. While her stunts awed audiences, something else captured the attention of the women: The black-and-white Pakistan-Iran collaboration (that included an Iranian producer and male lead actor) featured the young actress wearing a low-waist sari. And such was the impact of her fashion statement that it became a rage with young women to drape saris closer to their hips.

Rakhshanda forayed into the show business when a family friend offered to cast her in a marketing campaign for his products. She did a few projects with him, and when she got noticed by other agencies she exploded into the limelight. She was not represented by a management company or fashion house because such entities did not exist at the time. Advertising agencies were shady and models had to monitor their photo shoots on their own to make sure they were not being used without permission and due payment. Since there were no modeling agencies or styling salons, most models did their own hair, makeup and wardrobe. The typical fees for a modeling photo shoot was somewhere around Rs300, and that too was often delayed or worse, pocketed by the agencies.

That was until her husband, the man who managed to steal her heart from her elite group of admirers, got her more. They were married in 1970. Husain owned a famous jewelry store on Victoria Road, which later became Abdullah Haroon Road, and he designed some of the jewellery that Rakhshanda wore at the posh social gatherings. He would sometimes sell the jewellery by the end of the party, and this never pleased Rakhshanda. He would pacify by her saying, “Don’t worry I’ll make you something much better!” Which he would, but then when these fine pieces of jewelry were displayed on Rakhshanda and the opportunity came to sell, he probably did so.

Rakhshanda and Husain, along with their son Chengis, migrated to Alberta, Canada, at the end of 1979 to be closer to one of Husain’s brothers. Later in 1983, the Javeri family became naturalised Canadian citizens.

The fame and spotlight that Rakhshanda left behind in order to begin life in her new homeland left a vacuum that she filled by turning to designing her own clothes and cooking. She attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and got her red seal in cooking and baking. Usually people specialise in being a chef or a baker, but she mastered both and topped both her classes. Her love for clothes got her working in designer stores. She would go on to become a manager at every store she worked.

Rakhshanda’s love for Pakistan never died and, according to her son Chengis, she came back to Pakistan 22 times in the 30 years since she migrated. She missed the sense of community that came with friends and family. She also missed the Karachi night life, which pretty much waned over the years as political change of the 1980s spread conservatism in society.

Rakhshanda died in her Alberta condo in December 2011. She is survived by her son, who is an artist and actor in Alberta, and her five sisters, four of whom live in Pakistan while the other lives in Texas. Rakhshanda ruled the hearts of millions during her prime, and her departure from the industry left her fans wistful for more. Now that she has taken a final bow from this world, fans like me celebrate the legacy she has left behind. Rakhshanda Khattak, no doubt, was Pakistan’s first super model.

Published in The Express Tribune, Sunday Magazine, July 1st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (52)

  • Supressed, Opressed, Depressed
    Jul 1, 2012 - 12:53PM

    Wow. Never heard about her. Thankyou for this article.
    How I wish the 80s and Zia never happened!

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  • Mohammad
    Jul 1, 2012 - 1:48PM

    Once I saw very saucy and hot songs where Munawar Saeed was there also..I was surprised the liberalization of Pakistani society… hard to think now.

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  • Riaz Khan
    Jul 1, 2012 - 2:17PM

    She was really a very beautiful lady! What a class she had! Sad to know that she passed away since she cannot be more than in her early 60s, if I am correct!

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  • Ebtesam
    Jul 1, 2012 - 4:43PM

    Even today none seem to be even close to her!!

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  • Bruce
    Jul 1, 2012 - 5:36PM

    Rs.300 for a photoshoot back then wasn’t really bad, you need take inflation into account.

    Back in the 70s the Pakistanis rupee was on par with the U.S dollar, that means today those Rs.300 are worth around Rs.30,000, and that isn’t bad for one photoshoot.

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  • Hasan
    Jul 1, 2012 - 5:50PM

    @Bruce:

    That’s the only thing you managed to take away from the article???

    Sad loss…she was clearly a bright light or her generation. I wish her family well in what must be a difficult time for them.

    Hasan

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  • Awans
    Jul 1, 2012 - 6:35PM

    Thanks to Mr Zia. Now a days we are Thekedaars of Islam only while Arabs and Other Muslim countries give a damn about us.

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  • S.M. Saleem
    Jul 1, 2012 - 8:02PM

    RIP-Rakshinda Khattak. I remember watching her 1971-71 movie “Jane Bond 007 Operation Karachi”, a Pak-Iran co-production where she played a lead role against Irani actor Raza Fazli.The song “Aik Uran Khatoula Iaiga Aik Lal Parri Ko Laiga by Ahmed Rushdie was very popular in those days.

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  • zeeshan sheikh
    Jul 1, 2012 - 8:23PM

    haters gonna hate. we need one more zia ul haq for shameless liberals

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  • Ali tanoli
    Jul 2, 2012 - 1:47AM

    Thanks to ethanic politics s in karachi every thing got distroyed.

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  • Faizan Ali Warraich
    Jul 2, 2012 - 1:52AM

    seems amazing-to know about her .keep sharing these kind of topics.

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  • PakArmySoldier
    Jul 2, 2012 - 2:16AM

    What kind of jiu-jitso is this where you don’t wear any pants?

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  • SJ
    Jul 2, 2012 - 5:10AM

    @Awans:
    We are led to believe that Arabs and other Muslim countries care about us, in actual fact they don’t really care. Pakistan has just become a liability for them too, they do get involved in our matters because our leaders ask them to but they are not really interested.

    Ok, back to the actual article. All I can say is Wow, What a stunner.

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  • Shoaib Ahmed
    Jul 2, 2012 - 1:44PM

    @ Zeeshan Sheikh: A little bit more tolerance would be great in your life for people of different values and beliefs perhaps. After all, it is never between you and them. Its between them and their God. Live and let live. I assure you you will not be answerable for the so called shame of others.

    As for Rakshanda Khattak, so sad to read about her after her demise. She must have been an extraordinary lady.

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  • Canzeon
    Jul 2, 2012 - 2:57PM

    Nostalgia get ya! I am fortunate enough to watch film Operation Karachi, starring this fabulous lady and I was really spell bound. She was far different from the routine mushy ladies of indigenous cinema, from visage onwards. Lately a DVD seller charged four times the routine price for a pooer version of this movie from me. May Allah rest her soul in peace(Amen)Recommend

  • hoho
    Jul 2, 2012 - 9:26PM

    The black-and-white Pakistan-Iran collaboration (that included an Iranian producer and male lead actor) featured the young actress wearing a low-waist sari. And such was the impact of her fashion statement that it became a rage with young women to drape saris closer to their hips.

    bit of an exaggeration. the trend started with indian actress Mumtaz who was famous for her low waist saris. yawns!

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  • Archie
    Jul 2, 2012 - 10:23PM

    Am afraid the facts may be wrong. The first one was probably Farida who was a PIA air hostess and came on the advert for Black & White cigarettes. This was 1970-71. Hats off to these pioneering ladies.

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  • Abdulah
    Jul 3, 2012 - 3:30AM

    shows how conservative our society has gotten

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  • Hasan
    Jul 3, 2012 - 5:39AM

    @hoho:

    Like most Hindustani actresses, Mumtaz had a relatively insignificant career, and by her admission she found most of her own films too boring to watch. It is a joke to even mention her in the same sentence as Khattak.

    So, not only is your post off-topic and pointless, it is also factually incorrect. Sorry, do come again though.

    Hasan

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  • luvlight
    Jul 7, 2012 - 12:31PM

    RAKSHANDA KHATTAK she was a wonderful and inspirational personality. We read how beautifully this article had summarized all the amazing works our Khala had done. Reading all that brought tears to our eyes yet again as her memory was refreshed. We loved her and her sudden demise has made us really sad. May Allah rest her soul in peace and may He grant her heaven. i request all the haters not to comment here or even read this article. If you don’t like someone then you don’t need to come here just for rude remarks. She was an amazing woman as we met her personally and she is a part of our family. She was a woman with a big heart and was highly generous not only with the people she knew but with everyone who came on her doorstep for help. We regard her greatly and remember her in our prayers. We miss her a lot may her soul rest in peace.
    Miss You Khala :(

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  • Roland Borges
    Jul 9, 2012 - 4:31AM

    @luvlight – Thank you for the positive comments on my article and for reminding the negative haters that this is an article about RAKHSHANDA KHATTAK.
    As the author of this article I met RAKHSHANDA KHATTAK when I interviewed her in 1969 and after her recent demise I thought it would be appreciated by many of her friends fans and family who have fond memories. To write negative comments shows little respect for her memory and disrespect to her immediate family.Recommend

  • ajmal
    Jul 9, 2012 - 4:04PM

    @Roland Borges: I applaud you for the article on the late Rakhshanda Khattak (Javeri), but I can’t help feeling a tinge of regret that no such articles appeared (at least in Pakistani press) while she was still alive. I for one, would have loved to know (as early as possible) about such a remarkable lady from Pakistan’s little-known past, and even lesser known film industry. As a researcher on Pakistani cinema, I am constantly stumbling in the dark and such articles and tidbits are like shining nuggets that renew my enthusiasm and guide me. If you know of any other such ‘hidden’ personalities or films of Pakistan, please do not hesitate in writing about them.

    As for the negative comments, they are a sad indicator of what we are up against in Pakistan, every single day, on every forum. They are also a reminder that we must crack on through this tide of regressive and oppressive attitude.

    My sincere condolences to the family of Rakhshanda, may she rest in peace. How I wish I could have known her while she was alive…

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  • F.Qadri
    Jul 10, 2012 - 9:16AM

    Thanks for the detailed story about a R. Khattak.S he was no doubt a very talented lady. RIP.

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  • Manoj Joshi
    Jul 10, 2012 - 10:17AM

    I did not know about this lady. She was probably a super model when India and Pakistan had not shared a very cordial relationship as neighbours.

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  • Belal
    Jul 11, 2012 - 1:23PM

    thank god she was not murdered by any fanatic.

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  • jo
    Jul 12, 2012 - 1:02AM

    Express Tribune only wants to promote this flith in pakistani society

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  • luvlight
    Jul 12, 2012 - 12:12PM

    @jo:if you got a problem with such articles over pakistani models or whatsoever kindly don’t come on there sites because your comments or views are not welcomed or needed….dear sir go get a life.

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  • Bilal Bin Munir
    Jul 12, 2012 - 2:14PM

    I have a question….if all the readers who commented on this article are muslim…can they explain to me that how and where such cloths and such acts are allowed in Islam…..

    its a question may be anyone of you can convince

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  • Syed Raza Ali
    Jul 13, 2012 - 1:52PM

    @bilal bin munir: nobody is looking for a certificate of islam from you sir. You can keep wondering, but please refrain from making useless comments on a piece written in memory of an immensely talented lady. The least you can do is to keep quiet if you can’t add anything positive.
    On a different note my heart felt condolences to the family and countless fans of Ms Khattak.

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  • Hasan
    Jul 14, 2012 - 1:13AM

    @Syed Raza Ali:

    Ameen to your whole post, brother.

    Hasan

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  • gp65
    Jul 16, 2012 - 10:52AM

    @Hasan: “Like most Hindustani actresses, Mumtaz had a relatively insignificant career, and by her admission she found most of her own films too boring to watch. It is a joke to even mention her in the same sentence as Khattak.”

    This article is about Rakshanda. She seems beautiful, so I will not follow suit and compare her with Mumtaz.

    To say that Mumtaz had an insignificant career is very strange. Some of Rajesh Khanna’s biggest hits were with Mumtaz in the 1970s, Mumtaz was sensuous without being cheap. Also when you say ‘like most Hindustani actresses Mumtaz had an insignificnt career’, are you saying that no Hindustani actress had a successful career? How did such a successful industry get built then?

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  • Hasan
    Jul 16, 2012 - 9:08PM

    @gp65:

    I stated only that Mumtaz’s career was insignificant compared to Khattak’s, and there’s not really much evidence to prove to the contrary. But as you said, this article is about Khattak, so I see no reason to waste any time or energy on discussing anonymous Bollywood actresses.

    Hasan

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  • goodgenie4u
    Jul 17, 2012 - 8:16AM

    As long as the state or clerics are involved in peoples religious beliefs and how they live their lives, there will always be insecure people; typically men, knowing they are inferior to women, who will hold them hostage. Ignorance leads to fear and power plays.

    Given the extraordinary majority of functional illiteracy (foks who cannot cope with diversity of any kind) liberalism does not exist in Pakistan, except in the hopes and dreams of a frightened minority. You’d think the devil is after them. May very well be true.

    People need to pray for wisdom. Something that is seriously lacking in the hearts and minds of otherwise very decent, generous and god fearing people.

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  • Babur Chughtai
    Jul 17, 2012 - 3:48PM

    Thank you to the author for sharing the info and pictures. We are proud of our talented Pakistanis and the diversity in Pakistan. Pakistanis should learn to respect each other. Nothing wrong with being religious. But also nothing wrong if a Pakistani lady pursues modeling as a career like Rakhshanda Khattack did.

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  • Ali Alam
    Jul 19, 2012 - 6:25AM

    Rakhshanda died in her Alberta condo in
    December 2011. She is survived by her
    son, who is an artist and actor in Alberta,
    and her five sisters, four of whom live in
    Pakistan while the other lives in Texas.

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  • Huma
    Jul 23, 2012 - 7:19PM

    @luvlight:

    I am sorry but that is a tad rich coming from you. Just because someone doesn’t agree with you does not give you the right to tell them where to go. Telling someone to go ‘get a life’ because they do not agree with a liberal mindset goes to show the intolerant attitudes that exist at both extremes in our society.

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  • Naima Azad Baig
    Jul 23, 2012 - 7:34PM

    @Huma I agree wit @luvlight why does everything need a “liberal” or “conservative” label.
    This article was a dedication to a daughter of Pakistan who contributed to her country in her own way & her son & family are being respected for their loss. Some of you have hijacked this article to spew your frustrations about issues important to you. This is not a forum for that conversation may be that is a tad rich for you to comprehend.

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  • ThisMeansWar
    Jul 24, 2012 - 7:03PM

    Dead and Gone! What did she do for the country after being this much successful? Well, besides enraging th women to “drape saris close to their hips”?Recommend

  • Priya Chandrasekaran
    Jul 24, 2012 - 7:47PM

    @ThisMeansWar is typical of the negative thread that struggles in Pakistani community the constant need to tear down the good that exists. Rakhshanda did not need your approval to seek her dream. If you took time to read the ENTIRE article she excelled in martial self defence & the possibility for women to follow their dreams inspite of the constant negativity in the background. Respect for the deceased has reached a new low in our neighbor Pakistan?

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  • Sohail Naqvi
    Jul 25, 2012 - 7:01AM

    @Priya the negative elements in Pakistan is hopefully a dying trend, majority of us Pakistanis are proud of our achievers in Academics, sports, media & responsible thinkers. We support them in their endeavors those who are living and those who have left us. We are a nation of rich culture & values sometimes we have to be dragged to finally doing the right thing!

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  • naeem khan Manhattan, Ks
    Jul 25, 2012 - 8:40AM

    Rip Rakhshanda Khattak.

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  • Jul 25, 2012 - 10:06AM

    i feel proud to know that we had such graceful stars ….and the same time feel bad about the fact that why we never heard of such pretty face?. my sis is working as a part time model along with her studies ; all the time she need more dresses ,purses or bags; recently she found out nice place “dekhodotcom” contains wide range of clothes and other stuff in reliable price .

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  • Bilal Bin Munir
    Jul 27, 2012 - 7:40PM

    @Syed Raza Ali:
    My brother I am no one to certify anyone as Muslim or anything else. My point was that is this is allowed in Islam or not?
    I am certain about this and I think my comments are more positive than those who are encouraging such westoxicated people in Pakistan to who are mis-representing Islam. I do not care what this lady did or people like her do or will do but my issue is that do not promote such thing as something allowed in islam.

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  • Zafi Muneer
    Jul 27, 2012 - 9:29PM

    @Bil Bin Munir you fail to tell us who made you the monitor to declare what is allowed & not allowed in Islam. Do you not think that we can as adults figure this out & on judgement day we individually will pay the price. No one is twisting you into “west intoxication” so spare us the harsh rant!

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  • Muhammad Ali
    Jul 28, 2012 - 5:49PM

    Salute to Gen Zia ul Haq for screwing the liberals secularists in Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Haters gonna hate!

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  • Tipukhan
    Jul 28, 2012 - 9:23PM

    Thank you General Zia ul Haq for getting rid of such nonsense from Pakistan.

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  • Ashfaq
    Jul 30, 2012 - 10:56PM

    @Bilal Bin Munir:

    “A little bit more tolerance would be great in your life for people of different values and beliefs perhaps. After all, it is never between you and them. Its between them and their God. Live and let live. I assure you you will not be answerable for the so called shame of others.

    Best comment ever by shoaib

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  • Nishant
    Aug 4, 2012 - 2:39PM

    all those supporting zia brand Islam

    I pity you for you choose to live in a curfew like state.

    what’s worse is that it is you who stare and ogle at women in public places so much to the extend that she refuses to step out on her own

    why does Islam has to be a curfew
    you can’t dress the way you want, talor even make friends with whom you want

    segregation is simply racism

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  • Ahsan
    Aug 4, 2012 - 8:37PM

    She moved to Canada 1n 1979. Lucky lady escaped the rule of the Islamist Zia.

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  • Riz Adil
    Aug 10, 2012 - 5:48PM

    Wish those golden days come back. Sad to see where Pakistan is headed with Hindus being forced to convert and persecuted. India wants a strong , vibrant Pakistan. Love from India

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  • Hasan
    Aug 10, 2012 - 7:45PM

    @Riz Adil:

    It’s equally sad for us to see Hindustani Muslims still being butchered in Assam and Kashmir; let us hope you will learn the beauty of a pluralistic society one day. Pakistan has improved its ranking in the Global Hunger Index along with most of South Asia; only Hindustan has slipped backwards.

    Wishing you and your Hindustani brethren peace, joy and regular food supplies,

    Hasan

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  • munna
    Aug 25, 2012 - 5:37PM

    @Bilal Bin Munir:

    “I have a question….if all the readers who commented on this article are muslim…can they explain to me that how and where such cloths and such acts are allowed in Islam…..

    its a question may be anyone of you can convince”

    How about moving to Saudi Arabia? It does not get more Islamic than that. There you can live in a city of only men.

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