Dressing up for Halloween can involve some creativity. Adults and children alike can get quite carried away trying to outdo each other in sporting the most original costume. But when the creativity crosses the bounds of tolerance and sensitivity then it can become a total fail. Walmart had to withdraw a “Pashtun Papa” Halloween costume from their stores. The outfit consisted of the traditional South Asian “shalwar and kameez” which went along with a vest, a cap, and a shaggy grey beard. “Whether you’re making a serious political statement or staging a political parody,” said the online description, “this authentic-looking outfit is sure to fit the bill!”
“Nothing is sacred this Halloween. Shock your friends with this Islamic costume,” the description further elaborated.
While the Halloween party-goers didn’t get a chance to dress up as “Pashtun Papa”, some have come up with ways to get around the trouble of going to a store to buy the coolest costume and instead turn to their friends or acquaintances. One such request came to Arhama, a recent college graduate. A student who shared classes with her came up with this brilliant idea to dress up as a member of ISIS and sent a text asking Arhama if she could borrow her long black garment and a hijab.
After Arhama posted the text on social media it was picked up by her journalist friend Ismat Sarah Mangla who posted it on her Twitter feed and soon went viral.
“I was waiting for a ‘just kidding’ text,” Arhama said and realized that this was not a joke. “I have heard about people wearing ethnic costumes but it is totally offensive that someone would want to dress up as an ISIS member. She was equating ISIS with me- a Muslim woman.”
Since the events of 9/11, the opinion held my many non-Muslims is that Islam is inherently a religion of violence. The truth, however, is that it is not the religion of Islam to be blamed but rather it is the actions of the extremist Muslims which need to be corrected. Media only cover the news that creates sensationalism. Arhama belongs to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community which has a Caliph as its worldwide spiritual leader. This Caliphate has been around for more than 100 years and the community has been established in more than 200 countries globally. They have been denouncing the violence and atrocities committed by ISIS and have been in the forefront of spreading the peaceful message of Islam. Unfortunately, the positive steps taken by moderate Muslims do not make the front page.
Arhama chose not to respond to the text but is sure that the media coverage will send her classmate the message that it is not cool to mock someone’s religion or ethnicity.