Hameed Khan


Shouldn’t enlightened universities require that for proper communication in public a woman’s face should be visible?


As an old alumnus of Punjab University I despair at the fast-declining intellectual and moral integrity of those who run our institutions today.  You would think that the first requirement of an educational institute would be to encourage free and open communication.  This is impossible if women faculty and students are allowed to hide their faces behind a hijab.  In fact no woman employee or student should be allowed on campus in this garb.


In two attached photos you will note the VCs of two notable universities  —  one the oldest in Pakistan — give away prizes on a stage to two hijabi students.


Dr Amir Mohammad (FAST) and Dr Mujahid Kamran (Punjab) are both UK-educated gentlemen and would be regarded as fairly “liberal”.  But in the false fear of losing their perks and positions they overlook (a) the blatant discrimination that the hijab entails and (b) its barrier to communication.  What they lack is moral and intellectual integrity.  Sadly this is the case for the majority of people who read the highest administrative and academic ranks in Pakistan’s universities.  [On visiting the FAST website I was shocked to see Mr Waseem Sajjad as the Chairman of the Board of Trustee.  In the past three decades there have been few more intellectually dishonest men in Pakistan’s public life than this Oxford-educated lawyer (the Urdu pronunciation of his profession would better convey his real characteristic in English!)]


Finally, let me indicate how we can all take a stand against Ninjas on campuses by giving a personal example from a recent visit to Pakistan.  I was asked to lecture in a large university in Karachi.  I agreed to doing it without an honorarium but would require that I be able to see and communicate with everyone in the audience, i.e. I did not want anyone with a hijab attending my lecture.  Unfortunately several such students turned up.  I had to request them to remove their covering or leave the room.  Being a conservative university — sadly most universities have become this way since my days — there was considerable commotion and protest at my stand on this issue.  I made it clear:  I could leave and not give the talk or these students had to do as I requested.  About 10% agreed (very encouraging!) to remove their masks but the others left.


This incident made it clear to me that if university leaders had spine as well as academic acumen, similar issues (such as the huge influence of the Jamaat in Punjab Univ) could be tackled easily, thereby banishing retrogressive cultural and religious practices within colleges and universities and in society generally.


I am sending this to the media, the VCs in Pakistan and to the HEC chairman with a request that he issue a directive banning the hijab on Pakistani campuses that get funded by HEC.


Dr Hameed Khan (The Rockefeller University<http://www.rockefeller.edu)


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