A Change in Perspective: My Visit to Sialkot, Pakistan

Here in my birth city of Sialkot, Pakistan about 90% of women wear traditional Islamic clothing (hijab with jilbab) while the rest wear the traditional shalwar kameez with some wearing the hijab with it and others not. So it’s relatively a very conservative city.

A few days ago I went to the marketplace with my mom and we came across a woman who was dressed very Western (small tight shirt and tight pants). She was clearly dressed outside the norm of her surrounding culture. She was sticking out like a weed and everyone could point her out. No one said anything and just let her be even though there was this feeling of discomfort and disagreement with her choice in the atmosphere (though some men were checking her out as well).

This made me realize how in the West it’s exactly the opposite. The woman in the Islamic traditional clothing is the one sticking out and the “odd ball”. She is the one from whom others feel discomfort because she is dressed outside the cultural norm. They may let her be but there is an atmosphere of discomfort and disagreement with her choice. (My wife gets looks of displeasure all the time in the U.S. due to her Islamic dress)

It made me think how similar humans are in their behavior. We point fingers at other cultures but behave exactly the same way in a different context. Also that most people, even when they disagree, will allow people to just be. 

This is not to say we shouldn’t discuss our differences but that dialogue must be respectful and willingness to see the other side’s perspective.

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