Return of the Celebrity Mufti Show

Jan 22nd, 2011 | By | Category: Express News, PEMRA

According to Express Tribune, ‘Four million flood victims still homeless’. The security situation in Karachi continues to be fragile. Terrorists continue to target with suicide bombers. Of all of the many social ills that cry out desperately for attention, which is the most pressing for Kamran Shahid to feature on his news programme? Veena Malik.

Actress Veena Malik crying after being abused on Front Line.

Actress Veena Malik crying after being abused on Front Line.

If you have not already heard about Friday night’s episode of Front Line with Kamran Shahid, you have probably been hiding under a rock. On what is allegedly a hard hitting news talk show, the topic of discussion was an actress’s appearance on the reality show Bigg Boss. What actually took place was an attempted public humiliation of a woman thrown to the wolves of celebrity muftis. It was painful to watch as a the actress suffered baseless accusations against her character and her reputation, all with complete lack of evidence on the part of her accuser.

While the worst behaved on the program by all counts was Mufti Abdul Qawi in his treatment of Veena, special consideration should be given to Kamran Shahid. After all, the host cannot pretend that he could not expect this outcome as only one month ago he invited Mufti Abdul Qawi to appear to discuss the same topic in what turned into another media circus.

Just as he has in the past, Abdul Qawi accused the actress of embarrassing Pakistan and Islam in the eyes of the world with her behaviour on the set of Bigg Boss. But on demand to explain specifically what actions she had done to bring shame to her country or her religion, the Celebrity Mufti was left at a loss.

That is not to say that Pakistan and Islam did not receive a black eye. In fact, what was probably expected to be a bit of juicy entertainment by exploiting the religious sentimentalities of the masses behind the veil of Urdu has become an international scandal. And it is not Veena Malik who is the villain but Kamran Shahid and Abdul Qawi.

Saturday morning, Americans in Los Angeles the location of the Hollywood movie industry picked up their newspaper The Los Angeles Times to see the smiling face of Veena Malik and read an article about her appearance on Front Line and the abuse heaped upon her while the host sat quietly watching. The story was also published by The Associated Press which syndicates reports to newspapers across the world.

We have chronicled on this blog previously how journalists wear two faces in the media – a liberal enlightened mask for their English-language audience, and a right-wing pseudo-fundamentalist mask for Urdu. They believe that they can keep up this charade because they will not be exposed between the two audiences.

Yet more and more we are seeing these cynical media exploiters of the masses exposed. The barriers between language are not solid walls, and just as we move fluidly between English and Urdu, so we are able to notice the tricks that these so-called journalists are playing.

Kamran Shahid, make no mistake, is solely responsible for last night’s programme. He had interviewed Abdul Qawi on the same subject matter only one month prior, so he could expect the result. Kamran Shahid could have chosen any number of pressing topics, and any number of guests. He chose Abdul Qawi for a reason. But that does not in any way excuse this celebrity Mufti for his own actions. Just because a circus chooses to hire a clown, the clown is still responsible for his own performance.

Mufti Abdul Qawi’s treatment of Veena Malik would be considered abuse on a civilized news programme. Sana Saleem describes the setting perfectly for Dawn Blog today:

Throughout the hour-long programme, the host kept attacking Veena by using words such as “oryan,” “fahash” and kept insisting that Veena had brought shame to Islam, Pakistan and our culture. The Mufti on the show was asked to judge Veena’s presence on Bigg Boss in the light of Islam. Here, I must also add that the host tried his best to emphasise that the Mufti had the right to impose a fatwa on Veena for her actions.

Yet by his own admission, Mufti Abdul Qawi has not actually watched episodes of Bigg Boss that he is so virulently criticising. At this point in the programme, Kamran Shahid should have removed this Celebrity Mufti from the set and apologized to Veena Malik. Instead he chose to press for a fatwa on her.

It is not a brave man that beats a defenseless woman. It is even more shameful to be the man who orchestrates such a beating. That Kamran Shahid tried to encourage this celebrity Mufti to not only abuse Veena Malik but to impose a fatwa crosses the line from irresponsible to dangerous. It should be asked whether in doing so Kamran Shahid intentionally or unintentionally attempted to incite violence and lawlessness against Veena Malik. PEMRA would be justified to launch an immediate investigation.

Here again Sana Saleem again makes an important point:

Veena Malik is just one example how certain factions of our media have resorted to moral policing and even advocating fatwas on anyone and everyone. Never mind that we have never pushed for fatwas against suicide bombings, honour killings and many other heinous acts justified in the name of Islam.

From Ansar Abbasi’s pseudo-religious diatribe against Fashion Week in Jang to Talat Hussain’s attack on Angelina Jolie in Daily Express, so-called journalists are building careers out of exploiting religion and attacking women. This is not journalism. And do not be mistaken – this cynical game is not being played in a private parlour but on the world’s stage.

The greatest insult to Pakistan and Islam comes not from the behaviour of an actress on a reality TV programme, but the vicious abuse she receives when she comes home.

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