Watch out evildoers, there’s a new superhero in Pakistan. The Burka Avenger made its recent debut on Pakistani TV, and she’s not your average superhero. An intelligent schoolteacher by day, an enemy of injustice by night, the Burka Avenger stands for peace, education, and women’s rights.
Haroon Rashid, a Pakistani pop star, invented the Burka Avenger to offer children a role model that counteracts the religious and political injustice in Pakistani society. As Rashid tells NPR in a recent interview, “I thought of an idea of sort of, like, a protagonist protecting a girls’ school. And that’s how the idea for the Burka Avenger developed.”
The superhero’s name is Jiya, who conceals her identity in a burka costume and arms herself with school supplies for weapons. “I wanted a nonviolent message,” Rashid says, “Her message is, ‘Justice, Peace and Education for All.’ ”
NPR reported that feminists are critical. What kind of role model for young girls hides her features in an oppressive burka? Rashid protests, “she chooses to wear the burka, she’s not oppressed … and on the other end of the spectrum, a lot of female superheroes in the West are objectified, and sort of sexualized in their costumes, like Catwoman and Wonder Woman, and that certainly would not work here.” Major props to Rashid for providing children with a superhero to emulate rather than for grown-ups to ogle.
“A lot of the entertainment [in Pakistan] is imported from the West; it’s not relevant, socially relevant or culturally relevant, and most of it’s just entertaining junk,” Rashid says in an interview. “They don’t have any social messages, and I think it’s important to have positive social messages and themes and morals.”
Rashid is redeeming superheroes from mindless violence, shallow plotlines, and gratuitous sexuality, showing that entertainment can be harnessed as a force for positive social good for children. My daughter will be born any day now (momma’s 38 weeks!), and when she comes of age, I will be reaching for resources that will profit her education and character. The Burka Avenger offers girls an example of modesty, intelligence, and social concern.
You better believe that she (and probably her mother and I) will be huddled around my computer streaming The Burka Avenger.
Check out the English trailer here: