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HALWA: Our new red line


An article written by Mr. Yasir Pirzada in Urdu for the Daily Jang Newspaper, dated 28/2/2024. Translated & Modified by Muhammad Faran Khan.

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This is a live cricket match broadcast on almost all digital media. Gaddafi Stadium is jam-packed with cricket lovers, and floodlights are making the green outfield look more green and shiner. Line editors were also putting the scene to the camera, as set to take aerial views of Lahore city. It always looked like the event was happening in some European cities. I was watching all this and planning to write a few words on the full-fledged commencement of this loveable sport in Pakistan after quite some time. It is quite easy for me to discuss it as i know much about this sport, and on top of everything, there was no chance of crossing any redline while commenting on this harmless topic.

Iconic Ghazal singer ‘Pankaj Udas’ passed away yesterday. What an adorable voice he was, left behind numerous memorable Ghazals and songs on his record. The song ‘Chithi Ai Hai’ from the movie ‘Naam’ was one of his hit songs. I must write something about his sad demise, I thought; he ruled the spectrum for two decades. This topic also looked to be quite acceptable; no one would feel offended.

Or why not about the incident of a US Air Force veteran, setting himself on fire right in front of the Israeli embassy in Washington on Sunday, protesting the atrocities in Gaza. He gave his life hysterically shouting that he could not be complicit in the genocide of Palestinians. Alas, I should write something about Gaza, a topic that would please both the left-wing orthodox and the right-wing Liberals.

Or about my favourite Donald Trump, who is also in the headlines these days for being trialled in the Capitol Hills case. He is running for a second term as President of the United States. I had so many interesting questions to raise, like what are the legal issues that are associated with his cases, how likely is he to become president against Joe Biden, Nikki Haley, and Cornel West? This topic is also easy and seems spicy; just 15 minutes of net surfing and there it is, some good amount of correct knowledge and one becomes an expert on world affairs right away, and most importantly the topic doesn’t contain any redlines as well.

People may object that most of the topics described above are related to other countries and don’t fit the domestic audience, I am also aware of this fact, and to overcome this I have already jotted down a few very in topics, like moral corruption and youth, hyper-expensive electricity bills, water crisis, Ramadan package, ways to revive the economy, etc, etc. So, there are many other topics also available.

Wait a minute! What did you suggest? Shall I write about the incident that happened to the woman in Lahore?

Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t do that. I am not as brave as Asma Shirazi and Farnood Alam are.

I cannot write how the woman who went shopping in Ichhra wearing a dress with Arabic calligraphy could be guilty of insolence. I am not brave enough to write that the fear in the eyes of that woman laments the helplessness of the state and the system.

I cannot write, what would have happened if the brave lady police officer, had not reached the potential crime scene in time, or what could have been the most probable reaction of the ‘enraged’ crowd to save their self-styled belief system. Even imagining that gives me goosebumps! Though I extend my hearty congratulations to the lady officer and her team. The way they responded in time was their duty; state police city officials get paid for the immediate response, and that’s one of the reasons why armored vehicles move back and forth shouting with loud hooters and metaphorically saying ‘Hatto Bacho’. If the police cannot even do this, then what are they supposed to do?

I have watched several videos of that incident; in one video, someone tells the woman to stand up in a very harsh tone, and she stands up. A voice from somewhere in the background says, “She has attempted to make fun of our religion. A slogan of “beheading” can also be heard.

In the video, the stunned woman can be seen surrounded by a crowd of non-mehram Muslim men (in Shariah law, mehram is the one who cannot be married in any conditions, and na-mehram is the opposite of that); every single one is staring at her, and no one remembers the verse 30: from surah Noor of the noble Quran, stating,  “قُلْ لِّلْمُؤْمِنِیْنَ یَغُضُّوْا مِنْ اَبْصَارِهِمْ,” a categorical and clear order of lowering down the gaze when you have a non-mahram in front of you.

Everyone is looking at her clothes, which have Arabic calligraphy on them, only one-word “halwa” is the most noticeable and readable of all. I have also seen the video in which the woman is there in the police station, wearing a burqa, and she is confirming her faith by swearing upon it in the presence of a lady ASP officer, other officials, and several Maualvi Sahibs. Also seen apologizing for having mistakenly come wearing such clothes that have Arabic words written on them. So now, however, everybody kindly be mindful that the word ‘halwa’ is the new red line, and it must not be crossed or trespassed, and the poor woman was unaware of our new red line.

When a Sri Lankan citizen was clubbed to death in Sialkot, I wrote that this wasn’t the first incident and not would be the last. What are the reasons for this?

How can these incidents be remedied and avoided, and how did we reach here?

While answering these questions, the ink of my pen is drying up.

The dress the woman was wearing was designed by a Kuwaiti company, Alhamdulillah Kuwait is a Muslim country, and that company is still operating there and selling such clothes in droves. I am sure that there must be some Pakistani, Indian, and Bangladeshi Muslims working in that company, but it is merely possible that someone may have thought of what came into the minds of Muslims of Ichhrah, Lahore.

People at Ichhrah took her hostage and asked her to take off these clothes. She had no idea who those Muslims were and who had appointed them to protect Islam this way.

On the other hand, the reaction of our society to this incident is inspiring. Everyone, be it religious or liberal, has not only strongly condemned it but also appreciated the timely intervention of the police. But this is not enough; a new red line has been drawn by asking the woman to apologize for a crime she did not commit. Now, the day is not far when the crowd will get ‘enraged’ for not producing the soulful sound of H (ح) from the correct location of the throat while saying the word halwa. Please wait, and you will see this yourself.


Muhammad Faran Khan
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