Countering ‘obscenity': Change the channel, says Rashid -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Countering ‘obscenity’: Change the channel, says Rashid

Pakistan Press Foundation

ISLAMABAD: Jamaat-e-Islami’s crusade to rid the country of ‘obscenity’ has always been monumental.

Jamaat’s members are found a little extra vigorous these days about cleansing our culture of “fahashi.” Hardly a day goes by when Jamaat members do not pressure the government to curtail “the growing obscenity.”

On Tuesday they moved a resolution asking for a ban on a few television channels which showed ‘obscene’ programmes, including Geo’s musical show ‘Pakistan Idol’. They had a grouse against virtually all 100 or so TV channels. How come news and religious channels are part of this grand design to spoil the nation, you may ask. Elementary: all of them show advertisements which allegedly entice ordinary folk by showing sexy legs, armpits and what not. The list of advertising items that could possibly encourage the pious to envision “wrong ideas” (ganday khayalat) included soaps, shampoos, mattresses (what the hell!), hair-removing creams and, of course, that rubbery Western invention meant to control population. No wonder we have doubled our population in the last 25 years and are all set to match India in numbers in another 50 years. The pious brigade should care, as these impoverished hordes are not likely to have clothes, forget about food, which could generate lots of “wrong ideas.”

Jamaat’s Tariqullah was overly agitated that almost all TV channels show obscenity and nudity. He bemoaned that this was spoiling our youth as these channels show “naach-gana and music all day long.” On Wednesday Jamaat’s Sher Akbar again raised a storm about the growing obscenity. We already have YouTube banned here. One may agree about having filters to check the unwanted substance but there is a limit to how much we could shut ourselves from the outside world. Particularly in the age of the globalised village where every child is exposed to the Internet and satellite TV, not to mention the new vistas that 3G/4G licences will open. If one were to follow the Jamaat strictures, it would have us everything closed from TV to the phone to the Internet.

It is pertinent to recall that when Imran Khan, who played cricket at that time, invited several noted Indian artistes including Rajesh Khana and Rekha for the first open air theatre musical event in Lahore, the Jamaat and its student wing the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba opposed it tooth and nail. Imran had arranged the event for raising funds for his hospital. The sticks-bearing IJT activists threatened to stop the event forcefully. Imran then held talks with the then Jamaat leaders and an agreement was struck only two days before the scheduled date of the event following which a very successful musical function, including dancing, was held at Qaddafi Open Air Theatre.

It is heard that some people in the government have teamed up with the likeminded people outside the government to push the Pakistani media into the dark ages and embarrass PM Nawaz in the world. They are completely ignorant of the advancement the world has already achieved. Nawaz ought to remain vigilant about the designs of such people who may be hatching a big conspiracy against him. It is the first time that Nawaz has got the mandate from both the left and right sections of the people. These intriguers will surely end up in damaging the vote bank of Nawaz.

Here are a few problems that we may have against the Jamaat doctrine. Obscenity is a relative term, which may mean different things to different people. Jamaat-e-Islami definitely does not have the mandate to impose its interpretation of morality with the kind of representation it has in parliament. The Jamaat has only three elected members (the fourth being on a women’s quota), two of them from distant Dir on the Afghanistan border. They constitute less than one per cent of the 447 members of the joint houses.

One just hopes that the new Jamaat Ameer, Sirajul Haq, may have grown out of his Punjab University days when IJT goons considered it holy to stop people from, among other things, celebrating new year. And this approach to force people might have been the reason why Jamaat stands reduced to the periphery from one of the two biggest parties until 1970. We hope Sirajul Haq will learn from the experience of its sister organisations in Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, if not Turkey, who may have adapted to the changing times. A few lessons in Islamic history will not be out of place. Muslims conquered the Middle East within 40 years but it took 300 years to convert large populations in Egypt, Syria and Jordan etc to Islam. The reason for rapid Islamic expansion was largely because earlier Islam adjusted to the local mores of the Indians, Chinese and the Persians etc. No wonder Iran, Afghanistan and Central Asia celebrate Nauroze even today and retain most local names. And the downfall of most Muslim empires started when someone like Aurangzeb enforced ritualistic puritanism as opposed to more accommodating Sufi tradition.

Thankfully, information minister Pervaiz Rasheed rescued us with a classic answer. He requested Jamaat members to encourage their cadres to learn using the remote controls and change a TV channel every time it shows something nude or obscene. This was quite a change in the PML (N), which had removed billboards of shampoos and soaps in their heavy-mandated government in 1987.

PTI’s Asad Omar also wondered in the cafeteria that how come Jamaat members get to see all these nude ads whereas he was yet come across anything like that. We were not sure whether he was talking about himself or his party, such being the shenanigans of Maulvi Khan these days. In any case, Asad needs to check this out from his coalition partners in the KP. We hear the coalition seems troubled by the 14-member informal forward bloc that has emerged against Pervaiz Khattak.

The surprising development was that MQM’s Salahuddin Sheikh joined the Jamaat ranks by asking for the steps that Pemra may have taken to stop such ‘obscenity.’ This was different from the liberal position usually taken by Altaf Bhai’s team. Perhaps the absence of Haider Abbas Rizvi in the National Assembly is beginning to impact the MQM.

Tailpiece: Asad Omar again challenged Ishaq Dar’s latest claims about the economic revival. His thesis was that the rupee got devalued earlier because the State Bank purchased dollars from the market as proved by IMF report, which mentions the buying of $125m. Also, he questioned the government claim about the reduction of debt-to-GDP ratio. He believed it had actually shot up from 58 per cent to 63 per cent. Will some one please educate us on this in plain speak?

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