Miss Pakistan World Annie Rupani Sunday came out in support of Pakistani actress Veena Malik who is under fire from the Muslim clergy in her country for getting too close with Indian actor Ashmit Patel during her participation in Bigg Boss-4 in India.
Slamming Mufti Abdul Qawi who said in a TV interview Friday that the actor has "insulted Pakistan and Islam" by her behaviour, the Houston-based Miss Pakistan World said the mullahs have no right to pass judgment on Veena Malik.
"I fully support Veena Malik for standing up for her beliefs and values. Though unfortunate, Veena Malik's lashing out may be the only way to make her voice heard. Women are constantly being suppressed under the name of Islam, when in reality, Islam promotes the equality of men and women," the 21-year-old Boston university student, who was crowned Miss Pakistan World in Toronto in August, told IANS.
The Karachi-born beauty said: "Currently in Pakistan, a high percentage of women are abused, beaten, raped, and killed, yet men are not being held responsible for their actions. Pakistani women's literacy rates are rising, leading to their outward participation in society."
But clerics cannot stand these women, she said, who are becoming "strong-willed and passionate, and pushing the bounds of traditional norms. They are trying to project this as a religious issue, but in reality, it is only cultural. Any woman has the right to choose her friends or husband, and Pakistan being a democratic country allows any one to marry regardless of religion. So Veena has not broken any laws or the constitution of Pakistan".
She said the bold actress has shown that Pakistani women are "beginning to push past their status quo and the culture is starting to deal with consequences. But it will take some time. Veena Malik has shown India that Pakistani women are not weak and submissive".
Calling Malik's criticism a symptom of the radicalisation of Pakistani society, she said: "As the world is globalising and western ideas and beliefs are permeating all societies, some Muslims react by clinging tighter to their religious roots and condemning western ideas.
"Radicals are reacting out of fear and in defence of their religious and cultural background, but liberals like Veena should hold strong to their beliefs and help others to understand how Islam is compatible with these beliefs and ideas."
Asked if Veena Malik should again go to Indian shows despite all the turmoil her Bigg Boss entry created, she said: "As I said, Veena did not commit any wrong actions on the show. Therefore, she should continue to proudly represent Pakistan on Big Boss. She has changed the radical face of Pakistan in front of India. Not all Pakistanis are terrorists or support terrorist acts. And India knows that now."
Added her mentor and Miss Pakistan World pageant pioneer Sonia Ahmed: "Veena Malik has now become an icon for progressive and modern Pakistan women. She is one of the very few women who have stood up to the clerics."