Quaid-I-Azam University (QAU) in Islamabad has found itself in the middle of a social media controversy after pictures and videos from their Holi celebration went viral. The event, touted as the "biggest Holi celebration in Pakistan," drew both praise and criticism from various quarters, especially since the festival was celebrated three months after the original date, coinciding with Pride Month.
An official page for news for the university posted an aerial video of the students dancing their hearts out while playing Holi. “Holi celebrations in Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad, Pakistan. Biggest Holi celebration in Pakistan,” it read.
Holi celebrations in Quaid-I-Azam University Islamabad Pakistan 🍁— QAU News (@NewsQau) June 13, 2023
Biggest holi celebration in Pakistan 💓 pic.twitter.com/xdBXwYEglt
The reactions to the event on the microblogging site were mixed, to say the least. While some saw the celebration as a positive step toward fostering tolerance and acceptance, others viewed it as an erosion of Pakistan's Islamic identity.
Praising it as a step towards promoting cultural diversity and inclusivity on campus, a user wrote, "Good to see Quaid-I-Azam University showing the true representation of Quaid-I-Azam’s Pakistan.” Another took a sigh of relief to see academia as a tolerant space. “We need more cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity in academia to make it a more inclusive and tolerant society," they wrote.
Good on you QAU. We need more cultural, ethnic, and religious diversity in academia to make it a more inclusive and tolerant society. https://t.co/kZoIwAotpq— Awais Saleem (@awaissaleem77) June 14, 2023
Of all the times I miss #QAU the most, missing #HoliCelebrations tops the list ❤️— Tanveer Ali Bagoro (@bagoro_tanveer) June 13, 2023
This spirit of QAU should be upheld given the polarized times we're in to maintain some level of sanity & inclusiveness in our society. https://t.co/2ATQhKTTft
Another called the celebration “something hopeful happening” in the country for a change.
Something hopeful happening for a change! 💗 https://t.co/BlpSx5hIhh— Nida Kirmani (@NidaKirmani) June 13, 2023
Joy, tolerance, and colors at Qau-good done Mehran council! Council must protect these precious spaces through inclusivity, female leadership, and sensitivity towards those who don't want to partake. @QAU_Official can help by designating common areas and pro-student guidelines. https://t.co/trqMwqotLQ— Ahsan Kamal (@kamlaash) June 15, 2023
Others, however, voiced their discontent, criticising the celebration of Holi during "Pride Month." One user questioned the timing, and wrote, "Celebrating #Holi three months after the event, especially in Pride month. What are we trying to prove?" The individual implied that the event might be an attempt to pander to different communities simultaneously.
The controversy also raised comparisons to other universities in Pakistan. A tweep wrote, "Good to remember that it's the ethnic councils that keep Jamiat away from all this at QAU. Perhaps the only state university in Pakistan that can have Holi celebrations on campus. The others can't even hold a cultural day without Jamiat goons interrupting it."
Good to remember that it's the ethnic councils that keep Jamiat away from all this at QAU. Perhaps the only state university in Pakistan that can have holi celebrations on campus. The others can't even hold a cultural day without Jamiat goons interrupting it. https://t.co/ygHtsX7kOE— Imran Khan (@iopyne) June 13, 2023
A user noted that the “backlash” would have been “10000x more” if the event was being celebrated at a private university like LUMS.
the backlash would’ve been × 1000000 if this had happened in lums https://t.co/X6rDwn8iSv— f (@0_0ffs) June 14, 2023
Others also questioned why only men were dancing in the video and no women could be seen anywhere. “May we see more women joining in these celebrations as freely as men, and may QAU remain a peaceful and joyous space for young people always!” read a tweet.
May we see more women joining in these celebrations as freely as men and May QAU remain a peaceful & joyous space for young people always! https://t.co/quhNXQxRiN— Tooba Syed (@Tooba_Sd) June 13, 2023
Calling it “shameless culture,” some users found it “disheartening” to see a pagan culture being “glorified” in a country built on Islamic grounds.
“There's no turning back for Pakistan,” read a tweet. Another user called it the inferiority complex of Pakistanis.
It's so disheartening to see pagan culture being glorified and celebrated in a country that was built upon the ideological grounds of Islam. There's no turning back for pakistan. https://t.co/IPqqAlq3ex— meraki 🌙🇵🇸 (@mishaalwrites) June 14, 2023
“Inferiority-complexed Pakistanis have always wronged the idea of coexistence. It means acceptance of people with different religions not adopting their religion it’s subjective to their population if there are only 2 or 3 Hindu students in the university, and the entire university shouldn’t go nuts.”
Inferiority complexed Pakistanis has always wronged the idea of coexistence it means acceptance of people with different religion not adopting their religion it’s subjective to their population if there are only 2 or 3 hindu students in the Uni the entire Uni shouldn’t go nuts. https://t.co/qkKfrGLGrt— Talib (@Talibhoon) June 14, 2023
Another user drew parallels to the hypothetical scenario of Hindus in India celebrating Muslim festivals. "Wonder if Hindus in India could ever celebrate Muslim festivals like this. If it ever happened, one common thing will be the reaction of pandits, just like the maulvis giving fatwa on Twitter here."
Wonder if Hindus in India could ever celebrate Muslim festivals like this. If it ever happened, one common thing will be the reaction of pandits, just like the molvis giving fatwa on Twitter here.#qau #holi https://t.co/dAEfkg1V9X— Faryal (@faryal_ishfaq) June 13, 2023
One user asked people to “calm down” and let the youth “have fun” instead of beating them down. “Having fun is considered taboo here. Young people having a good time must be condemned. Not to forget the sprinkling of ‘Islamic touch’. Amongst these students are the future growth drivers of this fragile country. Encourage their free spirit rather than trying to beat them down,” read the tweet.
Having fun is considered tabu. Young people having a good time must be condemned. Not to forget the sprinkling of ‘Islamic touch’.— Bucky Hidayatallah✨ (@BuckyBucky71) June 15, 2023
Amongst these students are the future growth drivers of this fragile country. Encourage their free spirit rather then trying to beat them down. https://t.co/vzImKj2Fnu
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