The Burka Avenger

The star of a new Pakistani cartoon fights crime in a decidedly modest getup.
More
Unicornblack

Some superheroes crusade in spandex briefs, but the star of a new Pakistani cartoon fights crime in a decidedly more modest getup. In the new kids’ TV show Burka Avenger, Jiya is a sweet schoolteacher who’s bareheaded by day. But at night, she dons a full-body black cloak, complete with a face veil, and battles the bad guys: an evil magician and a corrupt mayor who try to close classrooms and steal charity funds. In keeping with the show’s educational message, the Avenger attacks her nemeses with books and pens.

Her garb, however, has raised concerns among some who say a burka, long a symbol of female oppression, isn’t an optimal outfit for a superhero. Adding to the controversy, women covered in full-face black niqabs are sometimes pejoratively called “ninja turtles”—and Jiya, as she leaps and sneaks across the city’s rooftops, is all ninja.

“Burka Avenger is good but I don’t like the feudal stereotyping of the burqa,” tweeted Sherry Rehman, the former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S., adding that a scarf would have sufficed.

“To really make a difference in society, a woman cannot remain invisible,” the writer Bina Shah said on an Indian TV show. But another guest on the show, the journalist Mahvesh Murad, disagreed, saying Jiya has turned a symbol of confinement into something spunky and adventurous: “When she takes back the power of the burka, she’s taking back the power … of every woman.”

For their part, Burka Avenger’s makers argue that the costume is an appropriate nod to their viewers’ culture. “We did not want her dressed half-naked like most Western superheroes,” the show’s Facebook page explains, “because she is a Muslim superhero.”

Jump to comments
Presented by

Olga Khazan is an associate editor at The Atlantic, where she covers health.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

The Remote Warehouse Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where the Wild Things Go

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Adults Need Playtime Too

When was the last time you played your favorite childhood game?

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Global

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In