by Kat Zaynub
This announcement was not in France where hijaab is an issue, but it’s in Pakistan.
This is a sad story. A very sad story about deteriorating morality and manners of some people of Pakistan.
I am a mother of two little kids. Moms can relate when I say this: it’s not an easy thing to catch a five minutes break let alone try to do Masters, when you have to take care of kids. That’s exactly what I have been attempting to do. For the past two years, I have studied day and night. I spent a good chunk of money on tuitions for myself. And finally I was ready to take my part-2 exams.
I am an exhausted mom of two kids who wants to clear my exams and get my Masters degree for multiple reasons. By the way, I am a good student.
But I just made the “mistake” of hijabing up. I choose to cover myself, because that’s my belief. And honestly in this era of “freedom of speech”, “rights”, “liberty”, and what not, my choice shouldn’t be a problem either right?
Sadly, it turned out to be a problem. A huge one for some people on 9th October 2021, at Quaid e Azam Campus Hall C1, Wahdat Road.
Two years of my struggle and studying while managing the two small kids. After arranging the baby sitters, and paying for tuitions. Finally the examination day arrived for this tired mother to get her Master’s degree.
I went to the center on time. I am a Sociology graduate from Punjab University. I have also taken my Masters Part-1 papers, and I cleared them with flying colors.
I have read the Quran and have made the choice of following what’s written in it about hijab. Modest dressing is my choice. And to be honest, a dupatta or a chaddar is also culturally appreciated in our country.
I have taken my exams in my religious attire also known as an abaya or a gown. I won’t pretend it. I have been asked to take it off during the exams, and I have always requested them to let me keep it on while they can have all the liberty to check me. Somehow they always agree and I take my exam without disturbing my modesty.
This time it was different. This time it was decided someone’s belief and someone’s modesty means nothing. I neared the hall and met the same old, very familiar, announcement: “All dupattas, chaddars and abayas to be TAKEN OFF and left outside the hall”.
Major cringe right? This announcement was not in France where hijaab is an issue, but it’s in Pakistan.
I told my examiner that I wear proper hijab and don’t want to discard it. I assured her that she can get me security checked as much as she wants, and I will expose my ears as well (as it was mentioned on the roll number slip. It says nothing about not wearing certain clothes). But she should let me keep my abaya on, and let me cover my hair.
She outrightly refused it and came up with a very rude reply, “have you been giving bribe to pass exams before this?”, then She managed to smirk, dismiss me and went inside.
Is it that easy to mock someone’s belief system like that, and ignore their struggle and ruin their exam and career?
I decided to take my plea to the head examiner. To my surprise, she was ready to insult me more. She threatened me to cancel my paper twice, if I did not remove my chaddar and my abaya within seconds.
I told her in a whisper that I was in my very casual clothes inside the abaya i.e. sleeping dress. And she needed to cooperate by letting me keep my abaya on. She chose to announce my predicament in front of the entire hall. Can you imagine the insult I faced?
She screamed, loud enough for the hall next door to hear as well, “why did you come without clothes? Sit down here in whatever you are wearing and take your exam otherwise I am cancelling your paper”.
By the way, I am not a scared teenager you can threat and bully. I left the hall with all my dignity. I left with my head held high. I chose my hijab over your lack of logic and lack of manners.
But many other women won’t be able to make the choice as I did. And I am sure how they have to go through the trauma, and we need to raise our voice for them.
Anyway, I left the place.Not because I wanted to. But because I wasn’t given any choice.
Let me also add here, it’s not an all-girls-center. They asked to remove abaya in front of male security guards. Because, it’s the place, where the person who gives you water also happens to be a male.
Many other women have come forward and complained that when men enter the hall they ogle and stare when women wear no chaddar or dupatta.
Let me ask a question: If there are concerns about cheating in an exam, does it entail that students should remove their clothes now and take exams while fully naked? Do you also make students take off jackets in winters? If this is not the case, then why the chaddar and abaya?
Honestly, this has come down to a level where they force you to take off everything and compromise your modesty, for a few hours to secure a degree. As if you can’t have it both. This is what some people are promoting.
I would request the concerned authorities to take notice and make the necessary changes so that women don’t ever get to hear again that they have to take off their abayas in order to clear an exam.
Checking and security does not mean that we take off our clothes. Even at airports on a global level, you are checked, but you are not asked to remove your clothing. This is illogical and unjust.