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‘Burqa ban’

‘Burqavaganza’, a play by the Ajoka theatre group, has once more created a storm after the organisation attempted unexpectedly to stage it at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts in Islamabad, triggering a controversy. The play was banned in April 2007 and women MNAs from religious parties objected to its content in the National Assembly. However, Ajoka continued to stage the piece — seen as comical by some, offensive by others.

The issue goes beyond that of a single play and involves that of free expression. The point is that, as a society, we need to move towards greater tolerance. Even though we may not agree with them, all of us must be willing to hear opinion of various kinds. Cultural performances are one medium through which these can be presented. It is true that in recent years we have seen greater diversity of opinion than before. But there is still room for more. The outcry over the play has in fact made it into a far bigger issue than should be the case. Those who disagree with any opinion expressed through a work of literature, art, or through theatre have an absolute right to stay away from it. This of course is an attitude that will take time to develop. Government bodies can, however, encourage it by doing whatever is possible to promote free expression. Civilised societies after all are marked by their ability to absorb all kinds of views. We too must move towards this goal if we are to move forward as a nation.

Source: The News


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