Public proposals, intolerance and a case of extreme reactions

Two days ago a proposal video went viral that showed a girl getting on her knees with a bouquet in her hand, very lovingly asking her love interest to accept her hand in marriage. The boy accepts the bouquet with a smile and warmly hugs the girl. It was a moment of romance, beauty and love and in the background their friends were shouting with joy and celebrating the couple’s happiness in full swing. The whole scene was so utterly romantic that I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy this sweet moment of the couple’s celebration.

This proposal took place at the college campus of University of Lahore. Unfortunately, the administration didn’t receive this public display of affection too well and as disciplinary action, expelled the students from the university.

This decision was received with mixed reviews by the twitterati. They were slandered with slogans of “behayi”, “besharmi” and many other colourful titles. We as a society are so intolerant that any public display of affection raises red flags for us and we feel that our entire religious and moral compass is threatened by a simple and sweet marriage proposal. The backlash from this incident is so intense that some people are also of the opinion that the decision was fair and it would teach them a good lesson for spreading indecency. I personally did not find anything indecent about the video.

As a result of this incident, I was surprised to see how conveniently and hypocritically we in Pakistan use religion to demean someone who has done something very innocent and benign. If we get down from the regressive lens of judging someone’s religious inclination, only then can we learn to be more tolerant and perhaps less judgmental and more accepting. Everyone practices the religion through his/her own inclination level. Hugging your fiancé maybe a taboo for one person, while having pre-marital sex might be a taboo for someone else. These are relative layers of acceptance and rejections. Calling them names and barraging with one’s own set of religious supremacy doesn’t make one a better Muslim either.

The people who lambasted this young couple and sermon those over the boundaries of mehram and na-mehram, how many of them are glued to their iphones while watching Bollywood sirens constantly. Don’t they check out a girl at a mehndi, a party or any other public space? What they do is worse than what this innocent boy did. He expressed love and respect to this girl. They didn’t commit adultery on a school campus. Instead, two mature consenting adults agreed to marry each other in a very sweet, romantic way.

I agree that perhaps a college campus is not the right venue for a marriage proposal as the college follows a certain code of conduct and the students are expected to follow the same. If there was a breach in proper conduct, there should be some consequential repercussions. But they shouldn’t be expelled from their university. They didn’t commit adultery, abuse, theft or any other serious crime on the campus that would result in expulsion. Instead, the administration can impose some other form of disciplinary action that can instil responsibility and accountability in students. I would like to suggest that the admin take back their decision and instead asks the couple to engage in some sort of community service or help with other causes to make a positive impact on not only their lives but someone else’s life as well.

Expulsion can have devastating long term effects on their academic future and career prospects. As a mother, I would hate to see these kids lose out on precious learning opportunities. I would sincerely request the administration of University of Lahore to please reinstate these students with immediate effect and please take less harsh disciplinary actions that don’t threaten their future career prospects or happiness.