Lahore, June 21: In a controversial move that has sparked outrage among Hindus in Pakistan, the Higher Education Commission has imposed a ban on the celebration of Holi in universities across the country. The decision, aimed at preserving what they perceive as Pakistan’s “Islamic identity,” has been met with criticism and concern.
The ban was announced through a notice issued by the Executive Director, Dr. Shaista Sohail, who cited the need to uphold Pakistan’s “sociocultural values” as the reason behind the prohibition. This action comes in the wake of viral videos showcasing Holi celebrations at the Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad.
According to the commission, the festivities associated with Holi are deemed incompatible with Pakistan’s sociocultural fabric and are considered a threat to the nation’s Islamic identity. The notice highlights concerns about these activities undermining the values cherished by the country and calls for students to abstain from organizing or participating in such events.
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In addition to the ban, the notice urges Pakistani youth to embrace Islamic cultural and moral values while focusing on developing their skills in line with the nation’s priorities. It also suggests that the Holi celebrations have caused apprehension and had a negative impact on the country’s image, primarily because they were widely publicized through the platform of a university.
While acknowledging the importance of cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity in fostering an inclusive society, the notice implies a need for students to remain vigilant against self-serving vested interests.
However, critics argue that the ban on Holi celebrations in universities infringes upon the fundamental rights of students, including their freedom to practice their religion and express their cultural identity.
The decision has received widespread backlash from various quarters, with concerns raised over religious intolerance and the curtailment of religious freedoms. Members of the Hindu community in Pakistan and human rights activists have voiced their disappointment, viewing the ban as a violation of their rights and an attempt to suppress their cultural heritage.
Critics argue that universities should serve as platforms for promoting diversity, inclusivity, and interfaith harmony, allowing students to engage in cultural exchange and understand different traditions. They contend that such restrictions hinder the intellectual growth and global outlook of students, limiting their exposure to a diverse range of perspectives.
In response to the ban, calls have been made for a reconsideration of the decision and a more inclusive approach that respects religious and cultural diversity. Activists and concerned individuals have urged the authorities to foster an environment that promotes understanding, tolerance, and dialogue, rather than imposing restrictions that stifle freedom of expression and undermine the essence of education.
The controversy surrounding the ban on Holi celebrations in Pakistani universities highlights the delicate balance between preserving cultural and religious identities and fostering a pluralistic society. It raises important questions about religious freedom, diversity, and the role of educational institutions in promoting inclusivity and understanding.
As the debate continues, it remains to be seen whether the Higher Education Commission will reconsider its decision and engage in a constructive dialogue with stakeholders to find a more balanced and inclusive approach that respects the rights and beliefs of all individuals in the country.