The period of Muharram holds immense religious significance for Muslims. It is a time saturated with grief and painful remembrance: a highly spiritual occasion, commemorated intensely amongst Shiite communities in particular.
But what is happening to Muharram? The public has recently raised concerns surrounding fashion brands and the proliferation of a strange kind of advertising: Muharram centric sales and clothing.
Local brand Bareeze has announced a controversial new fashion range: all black clothing for women as a way to ‘celebrate’ the occasion. Previously, on their website, these ensembles were listed as part of a Muharram Range but it seems after intense backlash the label has been removed; however, the clothes remain.
This is not a new concept. Famed fashion brands such as Maria B. and Khaadi have also come under fire in the past for doing the same thing. They don’t have to label it a Muharram collection outright: the unadorned, all black theme makes the implication crystal clear. It’s not difficult to figure out why the fashion industry has taken up this trend. After all, if Eid and Ramadan can be exploited in the name of capitalistic gains, why not Muharram?
But the debate goes deeper than that. It is obvious there is a difference between a celebratory religious festival such as Eid and a mourning period as is the month of Muharram. People who are currently outraged at Bareeze’s actions cannot comprehend why the fashion industry is attempting to monetise an occasion that is essentially founded on tragedy and grief.
Amongst religious and non-religious circles alike, anger is brewing aimed specifically at the very institute of capitalism that has allowed greed to desacralise many a hallowed occasion. Religion in Pakistan has absorbed the influence of countless external entities: wealthy pirs who often employ religion to win favour, a culture of excessive showboating on Eid festivals, corporations that bombard the public with Ramadan promotions and adverts, and finally the clothing industry’s foray into Muharram centric fashion.