Pakistan is introducing an unlikely role model for girls known as the Burka Avenger, a mild-mannered teacher who fights crime in burqa. Her weapons are as unique as her costume. Knowledge is literally power says Haroon, the Pakistani pop star who created and stars in the cartoon series as himself.
“She doesn’t punch. She doesn’t hit, she doesn’t kick, she doesn’t shoot anybody, all she does is clonk people on the heads with books or throw pens,” Haroon explained to CBS News. “So there’s an underlying message with that — the importance of education — and the pen is mightier than the sword.”
In the first episode, the Burka Avenger schools some male chauvinists who think the only books girls should be reading are cookbooks. The story has eerie parallels to that of Malala Yousafzai, who became a national symbol after the Taliban attempted to have her assassinated for speaking out against them. Malala is a “real life superhero” says Haroon.
“We were all stunned because we were working on the exact same story about a little girl who stands up to the bad guy who tried to shut down her school,” he told the Express Tribune. “I had never heard of Malala before then — it was like life was imitating what was on our screen while we were developing.”
Haroon rejects criticism that the burqa is a symbol of oppression. He told the Washington Post that it’s been the personal choice of the women he’s known. Furthermore, like any proper superhero she needs a costume.
“That we are trying to subjugate women is completely incorrect. ‘The Burka Avenger’ is all about women’s empowerment,” Haroon insisted. “All superheroes have disguises. The burka simply is hers. But neither Jiya nor the Burka Avenger is invisible.”
Burka Avenger isn’t first Muslim superhero to don the garment. In 2002, the X-Men introduced Dust, an Afghani girl whose mutant powers activated when a man tried to forcefully remove her burqa.
Watch Burka Avenger episode 1 online: