Subscribe to Secularism is a Womens Issue

Secularism is a Women’s Issue

Home > Uncategorised > Top Pakistan University To Ban Kissing

Top Pakistan University To Ban Kissing

Sunday 18 October 2009, by siawi2

Distributed on: South Asia Citizens Wire, Oct 14-18, 2009

Publication Source: Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2009

by Issam Ahmed | Correspondent

The Lahore University of Management Sciences promises to prohibit
public displays of affection after a highly publicized peck on the
cheek exposed deep fissures in Pakistani society.

When an unsuspecting female student at Lahore University of
Management Sciences turned to peck her boyfriend on the cheek during
the Islamic holy month of Ramadan last month, she probably thought her
private moment would remain just that.

Instead the kiss – which a fellow student witnessed, documented,
and then blasted in an email to the entire university as part of her
“dossier” on campus PDAs (public displays of affection) – has sparked
a passionate, headline-grabbing debate about how conservative
Pakistani society should be.

The vigilant student, Tajwar Tashfin Awan, sent the mass email in
an effort to generate support from students and the administration,
which has since promised to “see any PDA go the route of the dodo.”
Instead, in the past several weeks it has generated hundreds of
replies invoking anger, humor, and famous philosophers on what is
normally a quiet listserv.

The brouhaha at LUMS, Pakistan ’s premier educational institution,
points to the drastically different ideological directions in which
youths across the country are being pulled, says Asif Akthar, the
Lahore-based blogger who first reported the story and is now a
research assistant at the university.

"I think [the debate over the kiss] signifies a conflict between
different cultural identities and shows there is something unresolved
there," he says.

LUMS’s leafy campus, located in a heavily fortified compound in
the posh Defence neighborhood of Lahore , has stood out in Pakistan as
a place where students of all stripes seem to coexist. Dressed in
everything from burqas and shalwar kameez to tank tops and skinny
jeans, and drawn mostly from the upper-middle class, the student body
goes on to hold top jobs in finance, industry, law, and software
engineering. Many continue their studies in the West.

"At LUMS, you’ll find people of all ideological persuasions
studying and living together easily. There’s a deeply secular
community. There are religious ascetics who believe in a more tolerant
form of Islam. There are Deobandis [an ultraconservative branch of
Islam], and there are Marxists," says Ammar Rashid, a recent graduate
and now research assistant in social sciences.

LUMS has also been more open about men and women studying together
– in contrast with some government-run universities, such as the
University of the Punjab also in Lahore , where “free-mixing” between
the sexes is frowned upon and in some instances violently opposed by
the Islami Jamiat Talaba, an Islamist student group.

But as the kissing scandal shows, the fissures of a society in
flux run through LUMS as well, says Mr. Akhtar. "In a country where
there’s an ongoing debate about the role of religion and the state,
that debate is going to spill over into all aspects of public life and
college campuses."

In the maelstrom of replies to the e-mail that exposed the kiss
(and threatened to supply photographic evidence of it), one
conservative senior tried to guide freshmen on the correct path. "At
LUMS, you will be bombarded with all sorts of atheistic and secular
philosophies and ’isms’. If you do not have the proper knowledge and
conviction about Islam, you may fall prey to the untiring efforts of
certain faculty members as well as your fellow students to misguide
you," he wrote, before linking to his personal website dedicated to
Islamic practices.

Others responded with sarcasm: "I have sinned. I do not believe
that there is a God because I can not see, feel, hear or touch
Him/Her… During the holy month, instead of attending Koranic recitals
in the mosque, I was listening to the demonic sounds of Pink Floyd,"
wrote one junior.

The LUMS Office of Student Affairs has promised to issue a code of
conduct to ban PDAs – a measure some students have lauded, and others
rolled their eyes at.

That would be a blow to university’s prevailing culture of
democracy and tolerance, says Akhtar. "The administration should be
fostering a debate on the issue to try to get a handle on what the
so-called prevailing norms really are, and the ideas should be
thrashed out for debate," he says.