Target: ‘Burka Avenger’ creator Haroon Rashid
Goal: Commend and support new animated series starring female Pakistani superhero
Children in Pakistan and beyond have a new female superhero to look up to, yet she’s nothing like Catwoman or Wonder Woman. The heroine of the new animated series ‘Burka Avenger’ is a Pakistani schoolteacher named Jiya, an intelligent, young and empowered woman whose passion is education. By day she wears business clothes and leaves her head uncovered, by night she dons a sleek, ninja-like black burqa to disguise her identity while defeating the bad guys. Even her weapons are unique; she immobilizes her foes by throwing pens and books. The underlying message, according to the show’s creator Haroon Rashid, is “the importance of education, and the pen is mightier than the sword.”
‘Burka Avenger’ creator Rashid wanted to create local entertainment that is socially and culturally relevant to Pakistan. A female teacher fighting for education and justice tackles head-on Pakistan’s low literacy rates and violence against girls receiving education. Taliban militants have professedly blown up hundreds of schools and prevented thousands of girls from going to school in Pakistan.
Hasid points out that the Burka Avenger is all too relevant, especially with the attack on Malala Yousafzai, a then-15-year-old girl who was shot in the head by Taliban militants on her way to school. The United Nations and government statistics have reported that nearly half of Pakistan’s children are not enrolled in primary school, including nearly three quarters of young girls. ‘Burka Avenger’ simultaneously provides local entertainment and a strong role model while denouncing sexism, government corruption, and Taliban militancy.
While some critics argue that the burqa is a symbol of oppression, Rashid argues otherwise. Jiya puts on the burqa only to hide her identity when fighting; it allows her to leap off buildings and glide. Furthermore, the burqa helps bridge the cultural gap between conservative and liberal viewers. Unlike the costumes of other female superheroes such as Catwoman and Wonder Woman, the burqa is non-sexualized and keeps Jiya from being objectified.
‘Burka Avenger’ has reached such acclaim it is now slated to air in 60 countries and be translated in 18 languages, including English and French. Applaud the makers of ‘Burka Avenger’ for introducing a heroic female role model and for combating sexism and violence.
Dear Mr. Rashid,
We applaud the much-needed message the ‘Burka Avenger’ series sends not only to Pakistan’s youth but to children and parents all over the world. Unfortunately, violence against women is all too common, yet Jiya helps break those patterns of sexist brutality. Jiya is an empowered Muslim woman who seeks to spread knowledge, not dogma, to the world. She has the potential to be a role model and even a beacon of hope to children who feel that their access to education is being jeopardized.
Unfortunately, what happened to Malala Yousafzai is not fictional; the “bad guys” are not cartoons we see on a screen but are reality to children in different parts of the world. Still, we cling to the hope that the ‘Burka Avenger’ series will help stop future instances of horrific violence by teaching the current youth. We hope that the ‘Burka Avenger’ will continue its mission of promoting gender equality, social justice and knowledge as power. We applaud the creativity and positivity that the creators of the show have exhibited.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: ImranAli via Flickr