Parvez Hoodboy (R) during a TV debate. | @Twitter
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New Delhi: Are Pakistani women who wear hijabs and burqas in schools and universities “abnormal”? A burqa-clad Samaa TV presenter Kiran Naz and renowned nuclear physicist Pervez Hoodbhoy found themselves on opposite sides of this question, this week.

During a television news debate on NewsOne, hosted by Gharidah Farooqui on Tuesday, Hoodbhoy lamented the rise of female students wearing hijabs and burqas at Pakistani educational institutions such as the Quaid-e-Azam University, contrasting their behaviour with “normal” college-going girls.

“47 years ago you’d be hard-pressed to see even one woman wearing a burqa there, but now hijabs and burqas are commonplace,” Hoodbhoy said, adding that the activities of hijab-wearing female students are “worse” than those of “normal” ones.

The issue blew up two days later when Samaa TV presenter Kiran Naz blasted Hoodbhoy on her show, saying the hijab was a part of Islamic culture and she didn’t quite understand why the renowned academic felt the need to make such comments.

“I don’t wear hijabs but you cannot call those who do as abnormal under any circumstances. That’s why I will sit and wear this hijab for the entire show today,” Naz said, before putting on the hijab and reiterating that it is as normal as those who do not choose to wear it.

After Naz’s show was broadcast and uploaded online, #HijabIsObligatory and #SamaaTV began trending on Twitter — Naz was praised in some liberal circles but conservative voices also weighed in.

Hoodbhoy’s remarks were also met with a barrage of criticism on Pakistani social media, with many branding his comments as inaccurate generalisation.

“#kirannaz on #SamaaTV has given a perfect reply to [Pervez Hoodbhoy]. But she must also understand she can not do it for rating. If she wants to wear Hijab, she must do it.

We must understand as a nation that #HijabIsObligatory,” said journalist Faizal Abbas.

“May #Hoodbhoy see another successful girl in hijab. ‘Ginte jao aur sharmatay jao’ [Count them and feel embarrassed] ”, a user said.

“In a world full of liberalism, be like #KiranNaz. Appreciated,” another added.

“Literally myopic remarks by.Hijab or veil doesn’t impact the class participation. One of my fellow wear abaya or hijab she actively participated & topper throughout Msc & now mphil.She is one of the most outspoken girl I have ever encountered,” Quaid-e-Azam University student Mubasher Basharat said.


“Spent my four years of BS program at [Quaid-e-Azam University] with Abaya (Burqa)and Hejab. I was the first CR(Class Representative) of my class(40+ Boys and only 5 Girls). I took the initiative of academic debate sessions at ‘Main Huts’ of Quaid-e-Azam University and led all male colleagues,” student Sobia Naqvi said.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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