The English-Urdu debate

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By Muhammad Omar Iftikhar 

The recent debate on social media about the importance of Urdu that was instigated following the viral video of two owners of a high-end restaurant defaming their manager brings various questions. The video clearly showed how the owners were making fun of their manager who could not speak English. Social media users instantly came forward to defend the manager and criticized the owners’ behaviors. While the retaliation from the social media users was correct in its context, perhaps we responded because this is who we are. As a nation we do – consciously or subconsciously – value those who speak or know the English language. We give value to those who wear Western attire and want to be associated with those who own a luxury car. This video that went viral across Pakistan in a matter of hours reflects our social consciousness. We intend to follow the Western culture. However, when one is following too much of it, then retaliation also occurs. A case in point is our female celebrities. When they share their pictures from foreign trips, they are seen wearing Western attire. The bashing against their choice of wardrobe begins on social media. Many cite they should not be wearing such skimpy clothing for they are Muslims and Pakistanis. However, we tend to watch Indian and American movies where it is a norm for female actors to wear such attire. Following the owners’ video that went viral, people began sharing the importance of speaking in Urdu and why the Urdu language must be preserved. A group of people even planned an Urdu mushaira in front of the restaurant. The problem here is the reaction to the video. Urdu is certainly important to us all. Its sanctity must be upheld and preserved every day. A viral video should not compel us to try to share the importance of the Urdu language. The same goes for all the regional languages of Pakistan that are dear to us and represent Pakistan’s cultural dimensions.