The hero we need
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Pakistan's 'Burka Avenger' speaks to a society in the throes of large transitions
Mild-mannered schoolteacher by day, crime-fighting ninja by night. Sounds like yet another superhero story, except this particular schoolteacher with secret martial arts skills conceals her identity with a burqa and battles thugs trying to shut down the girls' school where she works. Pakistan's first female superhero, the Burka Avenger, is a sort of apotheosis of real-life hero Malala Yousafzai, and the villains she fights are all too familiar. Less familiar are her tools of trade. Jiya, the woman behind the burqa, has traded in the standard superhero utility belt for books and pens, and instead of jujitsu or krav maga, her martial art du jour is "takht kabbadi".
It is unsurprising, perhaps, that a society in the throes of upheaval would embrace a superheroic solution for its problems. From their comic book origins in 1930s America, these sometimes-superpowered men and women in tights have battled Nazis, aliens, environmental catastrophe and even overly ambitious real estate magnates. Their talents for averting the apocalypse in this 'verse and all the others were comforting in their constancy; no problem, even the threat of nuclear annihilation during the long years of the Cold War, appeared unsolvable.