Recently, the Higher Education Commission (HEC) has banned Holi celebrations across all educational institutes in Pakistan.
The decision was made in response to the viral pictures and videos of a Holi celebration at Quaid-I-Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad earlier this month, stirring controversy and mixed reactions from the public.
The HEC notification stated that such festivities portray a disconnection from the country’s sociocultural values and threaten its Islamic identity. It emphasized the importance of maintaining a measured approach to cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity, fostering an inclusive and tolerant society that respects all faiths and creeds.
Islamabad: Pakistan Higher Education Commission has advised universities to ban celebration of Holi festival.
☆ HEC says celebration of the Hindu festival Holi in universities affects the "image of the country".
— South Asia Index (@SouthAsiaIndex) June 21, 2023
However, the commission expressed concerns about “overboard” celebrations, cautioning students against becoming pawns in the hands of self-serving individuals who exploit them for their agendas.
The event at QAU, which claimed to be the “biggest Holi celebration in Pakistan,” garnered praise and criticism from various quarters. While some appreciated the promotion of cultural diversity and inclusivity, others believed that the celebration went against the Islamic traditions and values upheld in the country.
The decision by the HEC has ignited a debate on the balance between cultural expression and religious identity in educational settings. Supporters of the ban argue that it is necessary to preserve the country’s Islamic heritage, while opponents contend that cultural celebrations should be allowed as long as they are conducted with respect and understanding.
The Holi festival, traditionally celebrated by Hindus, has gained popularity worldwide as a symbol of unity, joy, and the arrival of spring. However, in Pakistan, where Islam is the dominant religion, the celebration of Holi has faced scrutiny from conservative factions who perceive it as deviating from the country’s religious and cultural norms.
As the HEC’s ban takes effect, educational institutions across Pakistan are expected to adhere to the directive and refrain from organizing Holi celebrations. This decision has sparked conversations regarding cultural sensitivity, the role of religion in shaping social norms, and the freedom of expression within the educational sphere.
The ban on Holi celebrations in Pakistani universities reflects the complexities surrounding balancing religious identity and cultural diversity in a multi-religious and multi-cultural society. As the nation grapples with these issues, fostering an environment that promotes dialogue, understanding, and respect for all beliefs and traditions is essential.