“The tide of Talibanisation…is threatening to destroy an art form that has flourished since the Mughal empire.” Why? It’s too seductive.
Sharia Alert from Pakistan: “Dancing girls of Lahore strike over ‘Taliban’ law,” by Patrick Cockburn and Issam Ahmed in The Independent, December 12 (thanks to Block Ness):
The dancing girls of Lahore, the cultural capital of Pakistan, are on strike in protest against the tide of Talibanisation that is threatening to destroy an art form that has flourished since the Mughal empire.
The strike, which is supported by the theatres where they perform, was sparked by the decision of Lahore High Court last month to ban the Mujra, the graceful and elaborate dance first developed in the Mughal courts 400 years ago, on the grounds that it is too sexually explicit.
“The Mujra by its very nature is supposed to be a seductive dance,” says Badar Alam, a cultural expert. He recalls that attempts were made to ban it during the 1980s. “Gradually, it returned to commercial theatre, mostly by paying off officials. The question remains: does the government have the right to engage in moral policing?”
The government and High Court in particular have no doubt about their right to do just that. They have tried to encourage “family friendly” dances, but once-packed theatres are now near empty, despite dropping their prices from 300 rupees to 25 rupees a seat.
In the face of the strike and the lack of enthusiasm for alternative entertainment, the court has suspended its ban. It has, however, ordered dancers to cover their necks with shawls and wear shoes (they used to dance barefoot but the court deemed that too erotic). “Do they expect girls to dance in a burkha?” asks stage manager Jalal Mehmoud. “Mujra has been going on for so many years it is part of our culture.” […]
A striking feature of those suffering persecution from fundamentalists is not their fear but their acceptance that, if they had encouraged immorality, they deserved punishment. The main centre for selling CDs and DVDs in Lahore is Hall Road. But when one of the tough-looking shopkeepers received a threatening letter accusing him and others of selling risquÃ© films, the mood was not one of defiance, but of submission. The traders heaped up the forbidden DVDs and CDs in the middle of Hall Road and made a giant bonfire. “I swear we sell no pornography,” said one nervously….
Because he accepts the Taliban’s premises as accurate.