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Ban on wearing Lungi & Burqa in public

Just as France's decision to ban the Burqa caused heartburn among the Muslim community, the lungi-ban is causing leg-burn among Keralites and lungi fans in Sharjah, mainly south Indian expats. There is one difference, though: In France the decision was openly debated, while the tiny emirate's decision is being discussed hush-hush by the expat community, for fear of job loss or other punitive action.


Expats are unwilling to be quoted on the issue, but say that the emirate's view that the lungi is indecent wear, has angered many. And because government decisions cannot much be challenged in that part of the world, the controversy over attire is being met with the characteristic Malayali satire.


"If Arabs find the lungi, that actually covers your legs right down to the ankles indecent, they must see the coconut climbers in Kerala who go right up the palms overlooking the entire village, with their lungis tucked up", goes one joke.


"Did the lungi's ubiquitous presence in Kerala lead to the state losing the Smart City project in Kochi?", goes another, though the mega IT project was initiated not by Sharjah but by its sister emirate Dubai.


A Dubai-based daily has reported police action against a lungi-wearer in Sharjah, but news is still patchy on the action against lungi-wearers, say expats in the UAE. "There is talk about lungi-clad men having their legs painted with tar, but first-hand information is hard to come by", they say.


What kind of impact Sharjah's ban on lungis can have on Indian lungi export is still being assessed. A good number of lungi exporters are based in Tamil Nadu, whose products are used largely by expats from Kerala, AP and Tamil Nadu in the Gulf countries. An official of the Kitex brand of lungis based in Kerala exuded confidence that its lungis would continue to be used by die-hard lungi fans, even if they had to confine it to their homes in Sharjah.


Lungi-clad passengers in Kozhikode-Sharjah flights would, however, be advised to carry their pants with them to slip into before disembarking. 


ET Bureau / 9 Apr 2010,