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Empowering or in bad taste? Burka Avenger is Pakistan’s newest superhero

There's a new Pakistani super hero in town, and she isn't wearing short-shorts like Wonder Woman.

Burka Avenger, who the Associated Press describes as "a mild-mannered teacher with secret martial arts skills who uses a flowing black burka to hide her identity," will make her debut in a cartoon series set to begin airing in August.

Her enemies? Bad guys out to shut down the girls' school where she works.

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And her skills are not just any old martial arts. As The Guardian reports, Burka Avenger is a master of Takht Kabaddi, which uses books and pens to defeat her enemies.

The series, to be broadcast in Urdu, was created by Aaron Haroon Rashid, one of Pakistan's biggest pop stars, as a way to create a positive role model for girls and a champion of girls' education.

"Each one of our episodes is centered around a moral, which sends out a strong social message to kids," Rashid told the Associated Press. "But it is cloaked in pure entertainment, laughter, action and adventure."

In the series premiere, a corrupt politician enlists an evil magician named Baba Bandook, whose views are very much like those of the Taliban, to close a girls' school so that he can keep the money a charity pays to run it.

"What business do women have with education?" Bandook says. "They should stay at home, washing, scrubbing and cleaning, toiling in the kitchen."

A child steps forward and declares: "The girls of today are the mothers of tomorrow. If the mothers are not educated, then future generations will also remain illiterate."

That's when the Burka Avenger sweeps in to fight off the bad guys.

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Although some people might object that the burka is a symbol of oppression and therefore shouldn't be worn by the character, Rashid said it is anything but.

"It's not a sign of oppression. She is using the burka to hide her identity like other superheroes," he said. "Since she is a woman, we could have dressed her up like Catwoman or Wonder Woman, but that probably wouldn't have worked in Pakistan."

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About the Author

Dave McGinn writes about fitness trends for the Life section and also reports for Globe Arts. Prior to joining the Globe, he was a freelance journalist, covering topics from trying to eat Michael Phelps' diet to why the Joker is the best villain in comics history. He's working on improving his 10k time. More


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