In a wholly unsurprising, but tiresome, move, Internet trolls have once again proved how seriously they take their role as the self-appointed custodians of culture, religion and morality around the world. And this time, Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan is on the receiving end of the righteous brigade's diatribes. What's earned him the people's ire? His wife wore nail polish. A moment of silence to let that sink in.
On Monday, the all-rounder uploaded a photograph of himself with wife Safa Baig on Facebook and Instagram captioning it, 'This girl is trouble #love #wifey'. Ms Baig is seen wearing a hijab and covering her face with her hands in the photo. It's an innocuous enough photo, except that overzealous protectors of Islam seem to have taken umbrage to her exposed arms and 'un-Islamic' nail paint.
Pathan's social media pages were flooded with comments of all kinds: from outraged outbursts, to kind requests to behave like a 'true' Pathan and keep his wife in the purdah instead of uploading her photos online, demands that he forbid her from wearing the offending nail paint, and, of course, Hindu-Muslim name-calling.
One user commented, "Apni ourto ki pic dalna unko baiy parda karna unki numayish karna hraam h..apni biwiyo ko mr.pathan pardey mai rakhna chahiye".
Another said, "You should change your name from irfan pathan to irfan nair/sharma/singh... #ShameOnYouPathan"
Yet another came up with, ""WTF. Tell her cover her arms. Being a muslim and being a Pathan its your duty to do so."
"Mere bara bhai (Irfan pathan) aap bhut hi samjhdar aur aklmand bhi hin aap ko apna wife ka photo social media me nhi dalna chahiye tha aap se ye ummide kisi ko nhi the aur nakun me nail polish islam me haram hi," one said.
Ironically, Jeddah-born Safa Baig was a nail artist and model before her marriage to Irfan Pathan in February 2016.
Pathan, on his part, has chosen to completely ignore the trolls and haters, refusing to give them the attention they seek by engaging with them. The only indication he gave of even being aware of people's reactions was on Twitter, where he uploaded the same photo with the caption, 'Kuch to log kahenge logo ka kaam hai kehna but always #love #travel'.
Over-the-top as it may seem, the ubiquitous nail polish has had a contentious relationship with Islam for a long time now. Islamic pre-prayer rituals, 'Wudhu' (partial ablution) and 'Ghusl' (full ablution), require every Muslim person to purify themselves by washing themselves with water. Since the water cannot reach the nails if nail polish is worn, most Muslim women are either discouraged from wear it or are asked to take it off every time before prayers. So much so, that in the past beauty companies have introduced product lines specially for Muslim women facing this problem.
In fact, beauty and any kind of adornments have been such a longstanding issue within Islam that Muslim clerics have continuously felt the need to issue fatwas warning against any kind of beauty indulgence. Or, far more rarely, permitting them.
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