Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Hypocrisy or mental illness? Marvi Sirmed

Hypocrisy or mental illness? Marvi Sirmed

When I first watched Junaid Jamshaid’s video that later landed him in trouble, I freaked out seeing the amount of misogyny that oozed from this pop singer-turned-televangelist. In his strong convictions about the inherent flaws of women, he forgot whom he was talking about.

Had it not been the blasphemy vigilantism, the video would have gone unnoticed just as all misogynist and sexist content routinely does. This was not the first time JJ demonstrated his utter contempt for women. It was probably last year that his disturbing statement emerged about women driving cars. He advised his fellow Muslim men to restrict women’s mobility and to never teach them how to drive a car. In the same statement – available on video – he gave his personal example and informed the audience how he had so far resisted letting his wife drive. This, he informed, was because the women who drove insisted on going out alone, which was the root cause of increasing obscenity and indecency in society.

In the recent video, the crux of his jeremiad was that women – irrespective of who they are – are inherently flawed and always seek the attention of men by deceit and manipulation. The core was missed but the periphery was picked up on. Now, the issue is not what was said but whom it was said about. In other words, it would have been all right had he said those words without bringing Hazrat Ayesha (RA) into it.


Even more disturbing was when after being booked for blasphemy, he made a video of himself making apologies to Muslims. In a passing reference, he said he sought apologies from the Almighty, but the main thing remained the forgiveness of the Ummah, having loaded a gun at him. In simple words, for him, God doesn’t matter all that much; what matters is the sword and the gun and the people who wield it.


Even more perplexing is the fact that most of the religion sellers – the ‘preaching’ class – seem to have either already decided to forgive him or to carry on with the holy duty of murdering and slaughtering. Cases in point are televised statements of Amir Liaqat Hussain and a video documented by Maulvi Tariq Jamil of Tableeghi Jama’at. Tariq Jamil showcased his tears and lamented on the state of an Ummah that insists on killing in the name of religion, while Amir Liaqat, in his usual flowery language demonstrated his even deeper misogyny.

In his bid to exonerate JJ, Amir Liaqat took two-thirds of his airtime in explaining what a big sinner JJ was for having said those things, and how righteous he himself was for hating on the blasphemy committed by JJ. His final lines asked the audience to forgive Junaid for he was human and it was human to err. He, however, deemed it fit to include as much misogyny as possible.

In order to appear more righteous than Junaid, he called the mother of anyone who didn’t love Ayesha (RA), a prostitute (fahisha). When he said he’d like to clarify his statement the following day, he arrived with another choice word, claiming that his own mother should be accused of being what is basically a contemptuous term for dancing women, if he ever fails to love Hazrat Ayesha (RA). One wonders why all the bad words about mothers? Why not about his own self? The icing on the cake was his declaration that if he ever took money for the Ramzan transmission on TV, it would be like committing zina with his own mother. The absence of any outrage over these statements is enough to safely believe that society is okay with it. Abuse mothers and women whenever you feel like abusing one another.

Both of them were joined by Mufti Naeem of the Madrassa Binoria who was quick to declare the matter closed and disposed off because Junaid had already apologized. Anyone who still makes it an issue on media, said the Mufti, would be creating fitna – unrest – amongst the Ummah. The matter was then taken up by Allama Tanveer ul Hassan from Jaamia tul Madina of Faisalabad. He declared Junaid liable to be slaughtered, beheaded to be precise, because the Ummah in his opinion was not mandated to forgive him. It was Allah alone who could forgive him after his beheading.

This has now turned into a whack-a-mole. There emerges one Barelvi ‘mufti’ or ‘aalim’ who declares JJ liable to be killed and there appear several Deobandi ‘aalims’ to exonerate him based on his video apology that he sought from Muslims. The consensus however, so far, is to let him go. Great, isn’t it? The Ummah is coming of age, right? The Ummah seems to have decided that blasphemy can be an error of judgment or a mistake. The Ummah seems to have decided that such mistakes, if realized and apologized for, can be forgiven.

It has so far not occurred to us what happened when Aasiya Bibi sought our apology? Or Junaid Hafeez? Both, while believing that they didn’t even commit blasphemy. Now that we have done it, can we do the same for Aasiya Bibi? Why couldn’t we watch two consecutive programs by Amir Liaqat when the pious demonstrated the ‘peacefulness’ of their religion in Kot Radha Kishan? Why didn’t a video come out showing Tariq Jamil shedding tears on the overreaction on other blasphemy accusations? Why didn’t Junaid Jamshed write the statement while making a case of his victimhood based on his sect? Can’t we smell something dreadfully rotten in this state of the pure?

Why didn’t we see outrage to save the honour of the Prophet (PBUH) when it was proven in the court of law that Khalid Jadoon, the local cleric, had burnt the pages of the Quran to put the blasphemy allegation on Rimsha Masih? This passion for ‘forgiveness’ was not seen when Shaista Lodhi sought an apology based on something she had never committed. But that went on deaf ears. When a powerful institution of this country wanted, it used blasphemy against Geo selectively while ignoring exactly the same incident by ARY.

Even the ‘last hope’ for a ‘Naya Pakistan’ had invited the Pakistan Sunni Ittehad Council to seek support in their Faisalabad shut down call. The Sunni Ittehad Council is the one that had once supported the fatwa against Shaheed Salmaan Taseer and have now registered a blasphemy case against Junaid Jamshed.

Amazing to see how these ‘small’ decisions of our establishment-supported powerful ruling elite, their little marriages of convenience are strengthening and empowering the elements that keep playing havoc with the collective mental health of this nation. I don’t think we need interfaith harmony or de-radicalization programs anymore. What we need is an entire army of psychiatrists to treat us from the mental illness we’ve embraced as part of our existence.

The writer is an Islamabad based freelance columnist.
Twitter: @marvisirmed
Was originally published in The Nation on Tuesday December 9, 2014

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