Friday October 22, 2021

Symbolic value

September 25, 2021

Some people have been unhappy with the recent appearance of the first lady in an all-black covering during a recent visit to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health, saying it sends off the wrong message to the world in light of the Afghanistan situation. The abaya (black robe) should not be automatically equated with a certain understanding of ‘backwardness’. One can wear the abaya and still have more liberal views on freedom of thought and expression than someone who wears ‘liberal’ clothing. What meaning we ascribe to symbols is up to us.

Perhaps enlightenment lies in changing our tendency to label people on the extremes. It is true that certain symbols are associated with certain concepts but a beard can represent a Muslim and a hippie. The wearer of a symbol can subvert its conservative meaning and turn it into moderation, but that depends on the perceiver as well. Humans cannot be, and should not be, neatly placed inside conceptual boxes. We should accept and respect diversity.

Mariam Khan