Pakistan’s first locally created animation has been raising debate all over the world. The cartoon titled “Burka Avenger” was created by one of Pakistan’s biggest male pop stars, Aaron Haroon Rashid. The main character is a young, female teacher disguised in a black burqa who fights to protect the girl’s school, where she works, from the Talibani men who threaten to shut it down. The first episode portrays the Taliban and others opposed to girls’ education as evil, ignorant thugs. It is full of comments about the importance of girl’s education for themselves and future generations. Western news sources harold the cartoon for tackling real issues in girls’ education and the Taliban’s blame for shutting down schools.
Still, local critics have focused in on the burka the character wears, and have steered conversation towards that issue rather than girls’ education.
Novelist Bina Shah, blogged: ‘Is it right to take the burka and make it look “cool” for children, to brainwash girls into thinking that a burka gives you power instead of taking it away from you?’ She fears little girls will start wearing burkas to imitate the character (2013).
Fakhar Uhar-Rehman fears the show may do more harm than good and it may be seen as a “mockery of the culture” (Aljazeera, 2013).
Haroon, the creater, told CNN that he chose the burka because he wanted to uplift the good things of Islam by showing the character is a Muslim woman AND a superhero. When speaking about the general purpose of the show Haroon has taken on a fairly neutral stance and states that he simply wanted to promote positive social messages to the children of Pakistan. Haroon never comes out and says he is specifically trying to promote girls’ education. Given what happened to Malala Yousafzai and the threats of publicly promoting girls’ education in Pakistan, it’s little surprise Haroon shows caution and reserve.
Aside from the ongoing battle for girls’ education, episodes of the Burka Avenger cover other issues affecting Pakistan, including discrimination, child labor, sectarian violence, electricity shortages and protecting the environment. Haroon reminds viewers that the Burka Avenger fights with a pen and not a sword: implying the value of education over violence. Unfortunately, the local fixation on the burka seems to have blanketed the show with controversy rather than applauding it for the positive messages it gives. Perhaps this was the precise motivation of those who in today’s society cannot publicly claim their opposition of girls’ education. The Burka Avenger, and the media coverage on the show, further exemplify the political pressure and danger sometimes coupled with girls’ education around the globe. I think the show proposes a creative way to advocate for girls in a country with such strong opposition.
(August 12, 2013) ‘Burqa avenger’ takes on the taliban. Aljazeera America. Retrieved from http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/2013/8/-burqa-avenger-takesonthetaliban.html
Moshin, S. (2013, 08 05). Meet the burka avenger: a fighter for female education. CNN. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/05/world/asia/pakistan-burka-avenger/index.html?iref=allsearch
Shah, B. (2013, 07 28). Here comes the burka avenger (and she’s going to kick your ass). Retrieved from http://binashah.blogspot.com/2013/07/a-pakistani-feminists-thoughts-on-burka.html