I hope these students keep their nerve in trying to celebrate their culture - they are up against the youth wing of the powerful Jamaat-e-Islami. From Pakistani English language newspaper the Express Tribune
ISLAMABAD: Dozens of students, angry at not being allowed to hold a cultural programme, brought all academic activities to a halt and forced the main campus of the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) to shut down on Monday.
The university administration, though, has claimed that they could not allow un-Islamic events to be held on campus.
Students of the varsity had wished to hold a cultural programme to mark the International Pashtun Culture Day on Sunday. The programme was due to include a poetry recital (mushaira) and was allegedly due to be accompanied by a showcase of cultural music and dance that is part of the Pashtun culture.
The students claimed that the varsity had initially granted them permission to hold the event and that they had made all the necessary arrangements, including sending out invitations to guests. However, later, under alleged pressure from the IJT, (Islami Jamiat Talba, a student wing of the conservative religio-political party Jamaat-e-Islami) the varsity administration withdrew their support.
“The university hyped the issue as if it is a war between Islam and heterodoxy,” remarked Aimal Khan, a student. He added that instead of promoting cultural events, the varsity was promoting extremist values by siding with student wings which have radical ideologies.
Following a call from Pashtun students on Sunday, students hailing from all ethnic groups including Saraiki, Chitrali, Sindhi, Balochi protested against the varsity administration and held a strike on Monday.
The students locked entrances to classrooms and did not allow varsity’s bus service to pick up students. Roads in the varsity were blocked by placing tree trunks and other obstacles while doors of departments remained bolted.
Students also occupied roads leading to campus and chanted slogans of “Give respect to Pashtuns”.
The varsity administration finally called the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) to disperse the students. After negotiations, the students agreed to reopen the campus. In return, the varsity administration agreed to reduce the degree fee, and resolve a host of issues faced by students including at the hostels and other administrative issues.
IIUI Rector Dr Masoom Yasinzai claimed that students, in the guise of a cultural event, were planning to play music and perform the Attan — a cultural dance of Pushtuns —which the administration could not allow. The university cannot allow any activity against Islamic principles, he said while explaining why permission for the cultural event had been withdrawn.
This is not the first time that such commotion has occurred during or before an event on campus. The varsity is considered to be a stronghold for the Islami Jamiat Talba, a student wing of the conservative religio-political party Jamaat-e-Islami (JI). It has often been in the headlines opposing musical or cultural events on campus with the IJT terming such functions as anti-Islamic. Unnecessary restrictions on female students have also prompted strikes and protests in the past.
I looked up the Attan. It is a very old dance traditional in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan; so old that it has its roots in Zororastrian customs, especially Nowroz, the New Year, going back to 2000 BC or even older. That alone would upset the fundamentalists. Two years ago the young men of College University Lahore were allowed to dance (above) and you can see and hear the music here.
I found a video of schoolgirls in colourful dresses dancing it for their school friends at a school in England - I won't post the link as the comments included criticism at this sharing of a good and joyful aspect of their culture, and this seems to have caused the girls some trouble and distress.
Such as "delete ur video... dont forget one day u will face ur Allah?"
BUT also "Nice to see Afghanistan kids having a good time,under radical Islam these children would never have joy."
Eventually I found a mixed sex performance at an American university.
Perhaps adding a celebration of the life of the great Pashtun, Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the Frontier Gandhi, would be of value. // Too much to ask for?