KARACHI – Gaining foothold in the south Asian country, hijab is increasingly being donned by public figures, politicians and Lollywood actresses in Pakistan amid increasing religious trends among the literate women class during the last decade.
“I have understood the reasons and importance of Hijab,” Sara Chaudhry, a top Pakistani actress and model, said.
“Therefore, I have no excuse to waste even a single minute to bow to the word of Allah.”
Chaudhry, who left the showbiz in 2010, was among a host of women politicians, writers and civil society activists who joined hands in a campaign to promote the Muslim headscarf.
“It was not enough to wear hijab,” said Chaudhry, who has managed to persuade four other top models and film actresses to don the headscarf.
“But after doing that, it has become my responsibility to persuade others to wear hijab, which is the command of Allah.
“That’s why I have become part of this movement.”
Among Lollywood actresses Chaudhry has succeeded to make them wear hijab were Sataish Khan, Mariam Ali, Rabia Durrani and Urooj Nasir.
Viewers were surprised to watch Urooj Nasir in a gown and hijab on state-owned television during a ceremony to honor fallen Pakistani soldiers.
Urooj has launched her own Abaya designing business.
Rabia Durrani, who belongs to an ultra-modern family, became a producer after the success of her film Uqabon ka Nashaiman (Haven of Hawks).
She has also left the film industry and has joined hand with Sara Chaudhry in a movement to promote hijab.
Rabia is still doing some programs on radio.
Tania Khan, a famous theater actress, too has left the industry after she performed `Umrah a few months ago, and is spending a domestic life.
Islam sees hijab as an obligatory code of dress, not a religious symbol displaying one’s affiliations.
As for the face veil, the majority of Muslim scholars believe that a woman is not obliged to cover her face or hands.
Scholars, however, believe that it is up to women to decide whether to take on the face veil.
Reflecting the growing trend, women politicians, writers and civil society activists joined hands to further promote hijab in the country.
“There are two major objectives of this movement. First, to remind our sisters that hijab is the command of Allah and requirement of Shari`ah,” Captain (rtd) Dr Kausar Firdous, a former member of the Upper House of parliament, said.
“Secondly, hijab is not at all a restriction in progress of women and the society.”
Dr Firdous is the first woman officer, who served in the medical corps of the Pakistani army while covering her face.
“There is no obligation that only those women wearing hijab can be part of this movement. No, this is not the case,” said Dr. Firdous, who served as Senator from 2007 to 2012.
“Those women and girls who first want to understand that why hijab is a requirement for Muslim women can be part of our movement.”
The hijab movement came into limelight in Pakistan when First Lady Nusrat Pervez, the wife of Premier Raja Pervez Ashraf, participated in conference marking the International Hijab Day in Islamabad.
“I will for sure participate in the conference because it is being held for a sacred cause,” she told a delegation from the hijab promotion movement.
“Hijab is the command of Allah, and we are bound to bow to His command.
Wearing hijab has seen an ostensible increase in Pakistan, particularly among young girls, in the last decade.
A visit to Pakistani universities and colleges shows a growing trend of wearing hijab among young girls.
Though there are no official statistics about hijab and face-veil, random surveys suggest that nearly 90 percent of girls in educational institutions in small towns and cities don the headscarf.
The percentage, however, drops to between 40 percent and 50 percent in big cities.
Almost all the textile chains have started introducing new designs and variety of hijab and gowns due to increasing demand.
Super stores and apparel shops in big cities attract women with new designs and variety of western and eastern clothes, with sections comprising the latest designs of hijab and burqa.
Opponents, however, argue that the hijab movement has political motives, and has nothing to do with religion, citing the domination of women belonging to Jammat-e-Islami, one of the two mainstream Islamic parties in Pakistan, in the movement.
But Dr Firdous denies the accusations.
“Our movement comprises women belonging to different walks of life and different schools of thought,” she said.
“It consists of even those women who do not agree with the philosophy of Jammat-e-Islami.
“We do not have any intention or plans whatsoever to use this movement for political mileage. This is purely for promotion of hijab and modesty in the society, where evil forces are also in the field to misguide our women in the name of so-called freedom and equal rights.”