So, I was hoping the whole Mahira-Khan-smoking-in-a-little-white-dress would not blow up into an unnecessary scandal. However, since the actress is the top trend on Twitter since last night, clearly, my hope did not materialize.
As I type, Twitter is a war zone between two distinct ideologies. Not that it’s otherwise any different but this time Mahira Khan, has unwittingly found herself caught between the cross fire.
The intensity of the reaction on something so trivial is unfortunate but certainly not unexpected. Deciding the correct length of a woman’s dress and her conduct in public was a part of our sub-culture even before Deputy Nazeer Ahmed defined in black and white the attributes of a “pious” woman in Mirat-ul-Uroos.
However, as much as I’m tempted, there’s no point in going into a theoretical debate dissecting the flaws in an ideology whose sole purpose is to define the parameters of a woman’s behaviour.
Instead, I’ll try to make three quick points and hope that they will resonate with at least a handful from among those who read this piece.
Mahira Khan is No One’s Ghairat
Please take just a moment to step away from that raging sense of misplaced ghairat that is asking you to hate another human being simply because of what she wore.
Even if the dress does not conform to our society’s understanding of appropriate length and even if it’s backless, please let’s ask ourselves, “How’s it my problem?”
Mahira Khan is an accomplished adult who has risen from the ranks of anonymity to stardom solely on the basis of her hard work and talent.
None of us were part of her struggles or had a role to play in her success. How then is anyone justified in claiming a right over her way of life?
For the love of God – and I mean “For the Love of God” quite literally here – please stop living under the illusion that Mahira Khan is your ghairat to fend for. She is her own person and so far she’s done better for herself on her own than the combined might of warring Twitterati on both sides of the divide.
Smoking is Bad for Health NOT for the Character
In a country where 177 million cigarettes are sold PER DAY, it amazes me to see this colossal meltdown at the sight of a woman taking a few drags.
Smoking is terrible for health; there can’t be two opinions about that, but to classify it as bad for character can possibly not be validated!
This is especially true when, from Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed to Fawad Khan, we romanticize images of men taking a smoke. But God forbid, a woman is seen with a cigarette in her hand, we have an emotional breakdown so rapid that it would put any drama queen to shame.
Once and for all, let’s please repeat to ourselves until we’ve internalized this scientific fact: “Smoking is bad for health not bad for the character.”
Empathy is a Virtue
Now I understand that a lot of people are giving innumerable reasons to “justify” why Mahira Khan is suddenly the personification of all that is wrong.
To all those people, I have but this to say: please take a moment to revisit that point in your life when you were caught doing something that harmed no one but did not conform to your family or community’s definition of acceptable behaviour. Remember how you felt at the time? Anxious? Scared? Judged? Depressed?
We’ve all been there and we all look at that moment with a sense of relief because it’s over.
Why then are we so arrogantly adamant to put another human being through that same hell that we are thankful to have left behind?
Where self-righteousness flourishes, love and respect die a silent but very painful death. It’s perhaps for situations like these that Rumi, a great poet and one of the most prolific Shariah scholars of all times said,
“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing, and right doing,
There is a field. I’ll meet you there.”