Nusrat Pervaiz Ashraf, the prime minister’s wife, on Saturday urged Muslim women to wear a hijab, saying that wearing one would not hold them back from achieving their goals.
She was addressing a Hijab Conference organised by the Women and Family Commission (WFC) of the Jamaat-i-Islami in connection with the International Hijab Day.
Ashraf said that Islam ensures protection of women and teaches that they be respected.
Women, she said, could do what they wanted as long as they respect the “limits set by Islam”. “They [women] should wear the hijab to prove to the world that it protects them and does not become a hurdle in their progress,” she added.
The first lady called modesty “women’s ornament” and hijab “the guardian of this ornament”. Ashraf said in the west, women had ‘humiliated’ themselves by choosing to expose their skin while Pakistani women had proven they were better than them by choosing the hijab.
She urged women to strengthen the ‘family unit’, which she said was central to Islamic teachings. She regretted that Pakistani women were starting to forget how important family and hijab were. “The institution of family cannot be preserved without protecting modesty,” Ashraf said.
She called Fatima Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto “role models” for Pakistani women. They, she said, had strengthened the identity of Pakistani women by choosing to wear a dupatta.
She then thanked the organisers for arranging the conference.
Ashraf also presented token awards to Marwa al Sherbini (an Egyptian woman who was killed in 2009 in a German court by a man she had testified against), Yvonne Ridley (a British war correspondent who converted to Islam in 2003), Maryam Jameelah (another convert to Islam and a scholar) and Aafia Siddiqui. The awards were received by girls.
Honorary hijab shields were given to Musarrat Misbah (a beautician and charity worker), Khanum Tayyaba Bukhari (a scholar), Sarah Chaudhry (a former actress), Urooj Nasir (a TV presenter), Dr Kausar Firdous (former army captain) and Shehnaz Leghari (a pilot).
At the end, WFC president Samia Raheel Qazi presented the first lady, the governor’s wife Musarrat Latif Khosa and Ghazala Saad Rafique, the wife of PML-N leader Khwaja Saad Rafique with honorary shields.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.