Conflict & Justice

Kashmir: How "radical" is a dress code for tourists?


Hindu pilgrims walk along a mountain path as they make their pilgrimage to the sacred Amarnath Cave, one of the most revered Hindu shrines, on June 30, 2012 near Baltal, Kashmir, India. Kashmiri separatist groups recently welcomed tourists to visit the beleaguered region, in a significant shift. But now conservatives are calling for a dress code to make sure foreigners honor local customs.


Daniel Berehulak

"Radicals in Kashmir issue dress code for tourists," reads a headline in Thursday's Hindustan Times.

How "radical" is a dress code, anyway? As I recall, you can't wear shorts if you want to visit many European cathedrals, and you have to rent a sarong to cover your legs if you want to visit temples in Bali and take off your shoes to visit various Hindu shrines in India. 

What's different here is the group calling for the code -- the Jamaat-e-Islami. It's a hard-line outfit that favors the establishment of Islamic law. And by calling for a dress code for tourists across Kashmir, it's "radically" assuming ownership over more than religious spaces, but non-religious ones as well. 

Usurping the power to define the right way to dress everywhere should not be allowed for any religious (or for that matter any political) organization.  

And, anyway, an edict is hardly required. Far better to rely on the time-honored tradition of dirty looks, and the browbeating political correctness of Lonely Planet writers, of course.