A Pakistani university is rebranding Valentine’s Day as “Sister’s Day”, and debating marking the holiday widely seen as a Western import by handing out headscarves and shawls to its female students.
The University of Agriculture in Faisalabad (UAF), in central Punjab province, said the change was taken to promote “eastern culture and Islamic traditions among the youth”.”In our culture, women are more empowered and earn their due respect as sisters, mothers, daughters, and wives,” UAF vice chancellor Zafar Iqbal is quoted as saying on the institution’s website.
“We were forgetting our culture, and Western culture was taking root in our society,” he continued. “UAF was mulling a plan to distribute scarves, shawls and gowns printed with the UAF insignia among female students” on February 14, the statement on the website added.
There is criticism over the focus on female students which gives the impression as they are the source of the problem and not the males who largely dominate society.
University spokesman Qamar Bukhari told AFP Monday that UAF is seeking donations as it aims to give headscarves to at least 1,000 of its 14,000 female students. “These scarfs will be distributed by the university administration and not their fellow male students,” he added, saying that the goal is to ensure respect for women.
Valentine’s Day is increasingly popular among younger Pakistanis, with many taking up the custom of giving cards, chocolates, and gifts to their sweethearts to mark the occasion. But the country remains a deeply traditional Muslim society where many disapprove of the holiday as a Western import and link it with rising corporate driven materialism in society.
Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain told a crowd of students in 2016 that the day had no place in the Muslim-majority nation and urged young people to focus on their studies instead. In 2017, the Islamabad High Court prohibited Valentine’s celebrations in public spaces and government offices across the country, while last year the country’s media regulator warned TV and radio stations against promoting the holiday.
Many see the Western-derived event as mainly another sort of cultural invasion. Many see Valentines Day as another form of Western assault against the Islamic traditions of Pakistani society. Already traditions are assumed to be under attack by Western and Indian cultural influx through mainstream and social media.
Traditional Pakistanis see all females in the angle of mothers, sisters, and daughters. Valentine day is seen as completely changing that perspective and thus causing moral degradation among society.
The Islami Jamiat-e-Taleba, Pakistan largest religiopolitical students body has tried to rebrand Valentines Day for years by rebranding it as “Haya (Modesty) Day”. However, it has not found success largely due to its violent enforcement methods as well as other factors.
Many questions whether the UAF will be able to reform Valentines Day in line with Pakistani traditions. There is criticism over the focus on female students which gives the impression as they are the source of the problem and not the males who largely dominate society.
Already, there was a derisive reaction by some quarters to the attempt
— creepy lady (@creepylady4) January 12, 2019
Sisters day will be observed in Faisalabad University Tomorrow. 😅 pic.twitter.com/GWiFhobjpL
— Mukhtar Hussain (@mukhtar295) January 13, 2019
— Aay Eye (@Aakefah) January 11, 2019
However, there was some support as well
An Awesome news seen today in Pakistan… Pakistan Varsity To Observe Sisters Day On Valentine's Day To Promote Islamic Tradition's … #Islam #Spreadrespect #PakistanZindaBaad #IslamicRepublic 🇵🇰🇵🇰🇵🇰🇵🇰😍😍😍😍😍😍 pic.twitter.com/8zyoyWXKoR
— Muhammad Kamran Khan Lodhi✪(Janbaaz) (@MKamranLodhiPK) January 13, 2019
Who's ready for sisters day on 14th Feb? 😍
— Hasnat (@Hasnaat_) January 13, 2019
— اریبہ خان🇵🇰 (@areeba_khan10) January 12, 2019