A woman’s clothing is her own business

Published: September 17, 2012
The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

Barring random news items and a few opinion pieces, the hijab debate has never really been part of the national narrative of Pakistan. Those who wanted to wear hijab/niqab/burqa wore it and those who preferred the traditional shalwar kameez and dupatta chose that without any problem. Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran or Turkey, there never was governmental coercion or pressure on women to wear a particular type clothing or to ban them from wearing a particular type of clothing in state institutions. A woman’s clothing was her own business as it should be anywhere in the world. However, things are changing. With the celebration of the World Hijab Day, which had tacit approval of the government and the patronage of the first lady, Nusrat Pervaiz Ashraf, of the Hijab Conference organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami, things are moving in the direction where the state is turning partisan.

The first lady of Pakistan, during the aforementioned conference, exhorted Muslim women to wear a hijab, saying that women could do what they wanted as long as they respect the “limits set by Islam”.

The first lady’s speech encourages women to follow the limits set by Islam but no one can agree on what it entails; one school of thought believes that there should be no hindrance to anyone’s education — including women — while the other believes that women should only be allowed access to education if there are segregated educational institutions for them, right up to higher education. Another school of thought believes that women need no access to higher education as their true calling lies in maintaining a household and raising children. If the speech of the first lady is carefully viewed, perhaps, she supports the third version of  ‘limits set by Islam’. In her speech, she urged women to strengthen the family unit, which she said was central to Islamic teachings. As if this was not all, she also deplored that Pakistani women were starting to forget how important family and hijab were.

For starters, there is no direct relationship between a woman’s hijab and her caregiving responsibilities towards her family. Secondly, Pakistani women have not forgotten how important family is for them. If anything, family interferes with their performance at work because of the overwhelming demands by families for their time. Thirdly, positioning hijab with better motherhood and a more fulfilled family life puts the women who do not wear hijab but are just as — if not more — concerned about their families, in an uncomfortable situation. If such views gain official state patronage, it can and will act against the women who do not abide by this particular view.

The first lady ended her speech by calling Fatima Jinnah and Benazir Bhutto “role models” for Pakistani women. However, she failed to point out that neither Benazir Bhutto nor Fatima Jinnah followed those particular limits she so favoured in her speech. Both Ms Bhutto and Ms Jinnah were highly educated women who studied with men; they did not limit themselves to raising children and families and had highly visible political careers. Ms Jinnah was so dedicated to her political career that she did not even marry and have a family of her own and Ms Bhutto was back in her office a fortnight after giving birth to her second child. Last but not the least, neither woman wore a hijab but favoured the traditional Pakistani dupatta.

There are many issues that plague Pakistani women that can do with the attention of the first lady; it would be advisable if she focuses on those issues instead of the hijab/dupatta debate.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.

Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (50)

  • Sinclair
    Sep 17, 2012 - 10:44PM

    Sorry if I am wrong, but isnt the President the first citizen of the country?


  • asdgjh
    Sep 17, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Right on. She is creating an issue where there is no issue instead of addressing the numerous, important problems that do already exist for women in this country.
    Of all the things she could have chosen to talk about; why this??


  • Aryabhat
    Sep 17, 2012 - 11:36PM

    While I agree with you, I have nothing but sympathy to offer to women like you! Unfortunately the way Pakistan is going, you are doomed! Flogging, Full Hijab and no education to girls is not very far on the timezone!

    Sometime radicalisation of Paksitani society make me believe that actually Pakistan doesn’t need external enemies. it is capable of destroying its own social fabric!


  • Naeem Baig
    Sep 17, 2012 - 11:42PM

    Dear Sir,

    The first thing to improve all women problems is the Hijab. The very first promise of 7 conditions to accept Islam by a women is related to Hijab and looking into History of all Prophets they reorganised and solved all femenine issues starting up with Hijab. Also the worshipers of SATAN start the very first problem creation by creating obscenity among women and then they march forward. that is why where ever the Satan worshipers move they start obscene practices and then entangle the society. Without Hijab or by neglecting the Hijab one can never be able to solve any problem of women. This is not my words but all the Prophets and all the civilizations of good moral values proved it to be. This is History and without Hijab all civilizations have crumbled This is also another Historical fact. So never try o understand this word HIJAB as small. IT IS NOT ONLY A DUTY IT IS THE BASE RESPONSIBLITY, Without which women and so from that women society and from such society no good will come out. That is proved by History and is valid till today.



  • Irum
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:12AM

    agreed that she is making an issue out of nothing but just so you know, hijab isnt really a matter of choice. just sayin’


  • Sep 18, 2012 - 12:22AM

    if the first lady is wearing hajib why you should have the problem with it you represent a minority group of women against hajib .why should you impose your views on others.if you get a referendum of pakistani women one this issue,then you will realize your stupidity


  • Sonia
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:30AM

    Tazeen if the every woman has the right to wear what she likes and the right to express- just like you wrote an inexorably futile article- the so-called first lady is also a woman and she has the same rights as well.

    No woman will start following her- and no man will push their women to follow her- this is the irony or the bliss of Pakistani society!

    So self- conflicting are your ideas and comments that by the time I got to the end of your article I couldn’t figure our whether you were fighting for Hijab or AGAINST IT????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  • Abbas from the US
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:01AM

    The Pakistani government from the times of General Zia ul Haq has indeed meddled in the proscribed dress deemed as Islamic. Earlier Pakistani women of Indian origin from the time of partifition to the General’s usurption of office wore sari’s which suddenly became not Islamic in his bid to bolster his stary in office.

    One can certainly hope that future governements do not step into another area where women can be controlled thru the dress that she is made to wear.


  • Mirza
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:54AM

    I agree with the writer 100%. The example of Benazir Bhutto and Fatima Jinnah is vivid in this case. Neither of them was from Arab heritage but South Asian and they used SA’s clothing. Why are some bent upon making us what we are not?
    This genie was let loose by Gen Zia and is expanding its darkness. It must be remembered as a fact that both Benazir Bhutto and Fatima Jinnah were not treated fair by the military dictators and they repeatedly stole elections from them.
    The PM’s wife must be charge sheeted for going against the secular coalition parties and chose to align herself with no other than JI. The only reason people have been voting for PPP, MQM and ANP is they are secular parties and not like PML-N or PTI let alone JI.


  • safdar ch
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:55AM

    dears !
    are you against first lady speech or HIJAB ? it seems to me that you are finding way to negate or mold the topic into your own favor/choice.
    yes women can do anything beyond hijab or DUPATTA. is HIJAB stops them to continue the same? if not then this question must not be a matter of worry for women to wear HIJAB or DUPATTA being a muslim…
    why we are comparing our common or traditional ways of living with Islam? is evrything Islam said is WRONG and what our society adopts is wright !we must think over all aspects being a neutral observers.avoid for the sake of arguments.
    evaluating your own choice in column that women can do everything without HIJAB is just a excuse to support your own thinking.. as far as first lady is concerned,its her own thinking, to me –they(her husband) both hardly bother to think.
    apologies in advance.


  • Muzaffar
    Sep 18, 2012 - 2:56AM

    Respecting the view point of the author. I would like to differ with the manner in which she has made it into an issue. Why dont our pseudo modern minds speak up when they see women being treated like object. If someone is trying to help develop a respectable society why do we get disturbed.
    This is were the problem for the Muslims and thereby their thought process starts. Muslims cannot separate any functions of their lives from Deen (Islam is not a only a religion- It is a code of life). The basis of what we think and do has to be the Islamic teachings ( Quran and Sunnah-has to be very well analysed and than acted upon).
    As in the present world we think in the manner the author ( and most of us) do e.g Freedom, Individuality – Own business , worrying abt Women rights as defined by open societies, etc. Thereby, we end up making the basis of a topic in the way we want ( not the teachings of Deen/Faith ) and the confusion starts. If the basis is as I have tried to explain is based on the actual teachings of Deen/Faith – the confusion would not arise and even if it does it would be very easy to sort out as the primary basis would be the Quran and Sunnah and not the types mentioned above.


  • pmbm
    Sep 18, 2012 - 5:29AM

    “limits set by Islam” ‘but nobody knows what it entails’
    Quran has very clear guidelines on dress for both men and women. Any educated person including the writer should be able to look it up.


  • Sep 18, 2012 - 6:49AM

    Islamization is a much bigger threat to Pakistan than corruption, energy crisis or failing economy. Religious Extremism most definitely will completely destroy this nation, if it is not tackled on time.


  • Nuzhat Lotia
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:27AM

    It is not true that there has never been coercion in women’s dress in Pakistan. Women were forced to wear chaddars during the Zia period. I remember being forced into wearing one to college and back otherwise we would not be allowed to enter the college premises.


  • Random
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:37AM

    there is no difference of opinion in any school of thought about the minimum requirements for hijab. Whether you want to follow this or not is upto you but do not try to give not wearing hijab validation under the guise of difference of opinion


  • Zalim Singh
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:39AM

    Hijab. The most important and the biggest issue Islam needs to address.


  • Musafir
    Sep 18, 2012 - 9:54AM

    Why these religious/political parties do not call a conference on honor killing, karo kari, disparity in education, economic???… Rather focusing on how to limit women to wear what they want… they are no interested in resolving the real issues of women they know that will lead them to empowerment…..and will be challenge to the power of cleric and traditional politics…status co is the only way to survive for the religious/political parties who arrange such conferences.Recommend

  • Shahzad
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:22AM

    Hijab is NOT a matter of choice. Nor is it in any way part of ‘Extremism’. It is a fundamental requirement. As others in the thread have expressed, wearing or not wearing it is a matter of choice, just like namaz and rozah, but one cannot deny it.


  • Maeedah
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:28AM

    The title is so misleadingRecommend

  • Liaqat Ali
    Sep 18, 2012 - 11:16AM

    I always say; Moulvies do what they believe in, but seculars of our country are a bunch of hypocrties with no courgae whatso-ever.They give in to pressures and use Islam for their political gains without shame.they have allowed the word secular to be used as a curse .All of them say NO I am not a secular as though a secular can not be a good muslim.How many examples you want me to provide where our seculars leaders has shown utterly un acceptable behaviour starting from pre parttion thru ZAB,BB , NS and not to forget Imran khan.I sincerely believe that our seculars must show more courage and less hypocricy and only cursing moulvies will not help Pakistan.


  • M
    Sep 18, 2012 - 11:47AM

    If I read one more article about the hijab on the Tribune I am going to shoot myself.
    (don’t get too excited, it’s just an expression, but you know what I mean)


  • MS
    Sep 18, 2012 - 12:03PM

    The purists are dragging this country backwards in the name of Islam… I pity all the woman for all the odds that they have to fight for a normal life…


  • Maqtoob
    Sep 18, 2012 - 1:09PM

    Whenever and wherever Men have gotten involved in interpreting Hijab, the education and wellbeing of Women have gone DOWN. Just take a look next door in Afghanistan. In the past and present Men use the requirement of hijab as an excuse to subjugate women. Separate hijab from subjugating women, provide women with opportunities for education and don’t banish them from having a voice, then see what can be accomplished. Some of the most active and beneficial Muslim organizations in the United States have educated hijabi women on their staff. I hope that all the Men that truly believe in hijab will also be shouting the loudest to ensure that girls and women get educated Islamically and academically.


  • usman khalil
    Sep 18, 2012 - 1:37PM

    Dear you have mentioned that”Unlike Saudi Arabia, Iran or Turkey, there never was governmental coercion or pressure on women to wear a particular type clothing or to ban them from wearing a particular type of clothing in state institutions”
    For your information in recent Past FRANCE GOVERNMENT has banned wearing hijab in public places.


  • KSU
    Sep 18, 2012 - 1:52PM

    @Abbas from the US:
    Women wore saris, indeed, and they still do in India or Bangladesh.This is just a regional cultural thing, if someone claims that it is non-islamic they can’t be taken seriously.
    However, Pakistani women of Indian origin also wore black burqas. A 100 years ago 90% of townswomen were in purdah. Always wore burqa in public.
    Hijab as an article of clothing is a modern phenomena. Women who wear hijab are usually in the public space and have discarded the burqa of their grandmothers.Hijabs could not been seen just 20 years ago. It was chaddor, burqa or dupatta. Dupatta is worn in some form is worn by all groups in South Asia also non-muslim.
    I agree that no one can force women “to wear or not-to-wear” the hijab. But let us not get nostalgic over clothing saris or pajamas or ghararas. By the way in bangladesh wmmen wear sari and hijab.


  • Aries
    Sep 18, 2012 - 3:21PM

    The Pakistani Government and the Prime Minister’s wife would be well – advised to stay clear of issues over which they have no jurisdiction. They are other pressing matters that need their urgent attention. Frankly, I don’t understand why the PMs wife ( she is not the First Lady) should mouth her opinions. She represents no one and has no political role to play. Why bother reporting her opinions at all!


  • Afzaal Khan
    Sep 18, 2012 - 4:32PM

    Man this is a dumb article wasted my time


  • Bilal
    Sep 18, 2012 - 5:01PM

    the best part for me is the fact that this is a PPP govt hahahaha and the first lady is the wife of a jiyala. Feels like if Zardari is to choose Ijaz-ul-haq as next PM things wouldnt change on the hijab front …


  • Naeem Akhtar
    Sep 18, 2012 - 5:41PM

    ok if it is so, that every one has his or her own choice then why u need to write on this issue. what is that message that you want to convey. why are you pointing out this one. let people decide by their self.


  • IceSoul
    Sep 18, 2012 - 6:32PM

    @Naeem Baig: The Islamic empire crumbled even with Hijab; Baghdad burned even with hijab, British troops entered Istanbul as invaders even with Hijab, Afghanistan was ravaged even with hijab. Go figure!


  • Naeem Baig
    Sep 18, 2012 - 7:26PM

    Dears First try to understand Hijab,

    A man becomes muslim when he or she agrees for


    this sentence however you may translate actually means. ” I will obey no other law then the law of Allah and Mohummed (Peace be upon him ) is his messenger.”

    The LAW of Allah has two aspects The Law of the Book (Quran) and the Law of the Prophet (Sunnah). So the above sentence means ” I will not obey any other law then the Quran and the Sunnah, and Muhummed (peace be upon him) is the messenger of Allah. (So his sunnah is also imprtant)

    The Quran indicates the word JALAABEEB which came out from the root JALAB which means a covering by which the covered thing is so covered that what is below it cannot be recognised. The Plural of the word Jalab is Jalbaab and the Plurals Plural the specific Arabic grammer is JALABEEB. So when we say Hijab we actually mean the term Jalaabeeb which actually means too many covering and not even only one covering.

    In the Quran many times it has been indicated to cover one self. One of the most famous is Ayat about Hijab is

    ” And do not follow the footsteps of Satan so that he may not make you undressed as he made your Father Adam and Mother EVE”

    This Ayat clearly indicates that undressing and Hijablessness is a pattern toward the SATAN and following Satan foot steps. Hijab is not a matter of womens own choice but it is a responsibility to be fulfilled anyhow.

    This is the reason why all prophets instructed Hijab while all Satanics instructed nudity.



  • elementary
    Sep 18, 2012 - 8:24PM

    @Naeem Baig: Could you give me examples of civilizations that crumbled due to lack of Hijab.
    I am happy to give you examples of civilizations which flourished without Hijab (Both past and present).


  • Iqra
    Sep 18, 2012 - 9:11PM


    As far as I have observed and learned about Islam, I have found its teachings women-securing and HIJAB is one of them. If you do not agree then what do you think about the women embracing Islam in the west?

    Also I have seen HIJAB wearing women, who are performing well in home as well as outside the home. Dr. Aafia, a high scholar, still wears HIJAB while being in the custody. I surely agree with the aforementioned viewpoints of those who favor HIJAB.Recommend

  • Iqra
    Sep 18, 2012 - 9:35PM

    As far as I have observed Islam, I have ever found its sacred teachings women-securing. If you do not agree with this then what would you say about the women who are embracing Islam in the west? What about those Muslim girls who wear HIJAB while studying at foreign institutions?

    Come on! STRIVE TO KNOW ISLAM, the religion that has universal power. This is the time that we crucially need the guidance of our great religion which covers the each and every aspect of life whether HIJAB or anything else. It is a complete code of conduct, no doubt.


  • Sep 18, 2012 - 9:57PM

    I dont see the UK crumbling over the topless pictures of the princess – in fact the country is thriving and every pakistani would give his right arm and leg to get a visa into that country. I did see the topless pictures – and it was not earth-shattering – and my respect for the lady does not go down an iota – only I would have advised her to be cautious considering the papparazi hazard. Why do you consider an uncovered woman such an earth shattering phenomenon?????


  • gp65
    Sep 18, 2012 - 10:42PM

    @usman khalil: “For your information in recent Past FRANCE GOVERNMENT has banned wearing hijab in public places.”

    Wrong. They have forbidden niqaab in ppublic places due to security concerns. No restriction on hijaab in public places. What you are perhaps confusing is the fact that French public schools do not alow people to wear any religious symbols within classrooms. This means not only no hijaab but also no cross.


  • sonia
    Sep 18, 2012 - 11:46PM

    why don’t you wear one then


  • cashiff@hotmail.com
    Sep 19, 2012 - 12:02AM

    “*They have forbidden niqaab in ppublic places due to security concerns. No restriction on hijaab in public places”.
    I didn’t get what you mean?


  • HUM
    Sep 19, 2012 - 9:53AM

    @Naeem Baig:
    You have got to be kidding me


  • isloo boy
    Sep 19, 2012 - 11:42AM

    who wears the hijab any way its the chadar and burqa that is worn by most religous women only some urban women wear hijabRecommend

  • isloo boy
    Sep 19, 2012 - 11:44AM

    but wearing a burka can get you in trouble when you go to a convention center or large public gathering usually the burka posh women are checked by female police i think a shalwar kamiz with nikab is okayRecommend

  • ayesha
    Sep 19, 2012 - 7:00PM

    well in iran there is certain dress code there women cant uncover her head in public places there was a time when gov had no concern with their clothing but now it is n talking about turkey half of em eat pork should we do the same


  • Sid
    Sep 19, 2012 - 8:06PM

    @naeem baig: I was goingt to point out to the apparent contradiction in your statements.
    but as “HUM” said

    You have got to be kidding me.


  • Naeem Baig
    Sep 19, 2012 - 9:03PM


    i am replying to every question but they arnt get posted. i dont know why.

    Is this issue is to ensure the upper hand to talk against hijaab.



  • Naeem Baig
    Sep 19, 2012 - 11:01PM


    As I told you that all civilizations dropped due to Lack of Hijab I tell you that there are 3 main causes of downfall of civilizations as even Quran indicates. These 3 basic causes are

    Collection of Wealth in Few Hands.
    Following of Stupid Self interpreted fantasies. Like Chankia calls it “Idiotic Bravery”
    Lust for Illicit Sex in the society.

    When I say all civilizations dropped due to Lack of hijab then I concentrate on the third portion which is the base cause of the other 2. This is Why When ever Heavenly religions came they made cumpolsory for obedience of Laws of Allah and Prophets, Distribution of wealth and Hijab.

    Hijab is a Farz and not anything else and cannot be denied as it is not only meant to protect Soiety from Illicit Sex but it has many aspects for the Ladies as well.

    Anybody wants more info please contact me directly as I feel the issue is not publishing my opinions properly.



  • Omar Mirza
    Sep 20, 2012 - 3:22AM


    If the punishment for apostasy in Islam is death, and it is based on a refusal of the accused to recant within 3 days and the punishment of death can only then be inflicted, how can the punishment for Blasphemy be death without a similar 3 day period to recant? On this basis, the denial of HQ mandated procedural and substantive Due Process, I believe Pakistan (PPC-295C) & Saudi blasphemy laws against the injunctions of Islam, and therefore request the courts that all prisoners convicted under these laws be given a 3 day period to recant since the logic behind the blasphemy law is to equate it with apostasy. There is no other punishment for blasphemy except death, because it is derived from the Islamic Apostasy law, which renders all tazir punishments of imprisonment null and void. Saudi definition of blasphemy is against Free Exercise of religion, Freedom of Religious Speech & Freedom of the Press, and is overly broad as well as vague. Blasphemy laws are not found in the Holy Quran.
    But there is something in the HQ that makes the enforcement of any kind of blasphemy law equated to religious extremism expressly forbidden in Islam. “There is no compulsion in religion.” Holy Quran, which itself is a guarantee of religious Freedom, Freedom of Religious Speech & the Press. The Saudis also explicitly claim that their blasphemy law is derived from the Islamic apostasy law, which means the rules must also be the same for both. However keeping it & simply harmonizing the rules would be a step backwards. It is quite simply un-Islamic based on the HQ & a form of lunacy in religious extremism which Muslims today excel in. It takes more than simply growing a beard to be a true Jurist of Islam.
    PPC-295B must be amended by either the legislature or the courts to be read with Mens Rea, criminal Intent. Without Criminal intent no crime has occurred, only a travesty of justice.
    Niyat is everything in Islam.

    Juris Doctor
    Dar ul Harb, New York


  • Agnostic
    Sep 20, 2012 - 2:47PM

    @Sonia: As she pointed out during the beginning of her article,she is not fighting for it or against it. She is basically talking about not limiting choice like they do in Turkey(a secular country where women were not allowed with the hijab in schools and colleges) or in Saudi(where Hijab and sex segregation is very important).The writer wants to point out that choice must not be curtailed.


  • Agnostic
    Sep 20, 2012 - 2:51PM

    you should tell it to a turk and i will like to see his reaction


  • Nobody
    Sep 21, 2012 - 11:20AM

    @Naeem Baig:
    Then tell me why the most conservative nations on earth (where most women observe hijab) are some of the most backwards nations where women are treated like trash? Hijab has no link to whether a country will prosper or not, it’s a piece of fabric. There’s so much more to it then that.


  • Rani
    Oct 20, 2012 - 12:01AM

    @Naeem Baig:
    Hijab is not Farz. Holy Quran doesnt command it.


More in Opinion