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Radio Free Europe has published a fascinating profile of Veena Malik, the outspoken Pakistani actress who famously challenged a sanctimonious cleric on a current affairs programme in Pakistan earlier this year. The video, which brought Malik international attention, is tremendous: Malik launches a scathing attack on the hypocrisy of her condescending interlocutor with a fearlessness rarely seen in Western feminists unencumbered by the constraints faced by Pakistani women.
RFERL’s profile of Malik is a welcome and compelling examination of a woman whose refusal to toe the line highlights the tensions between Pakistan’s conservative religious establishment and young, educated and working women. Malik is part of a small minority of Pakistani women who have displayed such vocal independence in such a very public manner; and while she naturally provokes very polarized reactions from Pakistani women, Malik says that “you won’t believe the kind of huge response I have received from the women of Pakistan, even the women who wear the burqa and all, receiving messages like “you have given us hope, to stand up.” With public disaffection in Pakistan mounting and a majority of the population under the age of 30, it will be interesting to see whether more Pakistani women will be inspired to take Malik’s message to the streets in protest.