Junaid Jamshed – one-time-pop-star-turned-full-time irritant – was recently accused of blasphemy. It happened after he made a jovial little speech in which he made mention of Hazrat Ayesha, the Prophet’s (PBUH) youngest wife, describing an occasion where she was trying to spend more time with him. It’s not a story I hadn’t heard during my school Islamiyat lessons. But Jamshed’s anecdote was different in that it culminated in a diatribe of despicable, misogynistic comments about the inherent flaws of women in general.
The next day he was accused of blasphemy by a Sunni group. You’d be forgiven for wishfully thinking that it was his misogyny that got him in trouble. But it wasn’t, of course; it was Jamshed’s mention of historical figures within the Islamic tradition and the accompanying implication that angered people. (Eventually I think the mere mention of figures from Islam at all would be deemed punishable, leaving us all like crazy Muslim
Muggles whispering reverently about “They-who-must-not-be-named…”) The fact of a blasphemy accusation is alas no longer “news” for many of us, but the reaction this particular case received was markedly different. The groups that in any other instance would have called for the blasphemer’s immediate incarceration (if not more) suddenly discovered that “human beings make mistakes” and therefore all Mr. Jamshed needed to do was apologize. Seven seconds later a teary-eyed, two-minute mea culpa appeared online, which to me seemed suspiciously like an Oscar nomination clip for the Best Supporting Actress category (tears: check! Choking voice: check! Eye contact while tear rolls down cheek artfully: check! Ugly makeup: check!).
Suddenly there was outpouring of sympathy for Jamshed in society at large. “Aww, see? That’s what a Good Muslim does! He’s so… penitent, so sad, so very… bearded.” I’m guessing a small part of this leeway has to do with the fact that Jamshed was a popular singer once upon a time (I was barely born then) and so exercises some kind of faint pull on our hearts. But the bulk of the matter is that suddenly a “soft” Islamist figure is caught up in the same hot flames that have been consuming our national tolerance for years. Apparently blasphemy isn’t such a big deal when it comes from someone like him: it’s an “error”, a “misjudgment” born of ignorance and not malice.
Yeah. As if all the Christians of Pakistan were just twiddling their thumbs in their churches, thinking how best to piss off the Muslim ummah for the heck of it.
Why, pray, is it ok for Jamshed to give a ham-handed apology – revolting in its sugary, dripping opportunism – but the same mercy cannot be shown for an illiterate Christian person accused of the same crime? Why can’t everyone be given a second chance to render their “apology”? Why is Junaid Jamshed sitting on a bed in bad overhead lighting while people like Aasia Bibi sit in jail? Not a word from these cowards came out when that poor Christian couple was burned alive in Kot Radha Kishan a few weeks ago, also for blaspheming (turned out their employer had a loan to extract). Indeed, why can’t Shakeel-ur-Rahman or Veena Malik or her husband post a video saying “sorry y’all!” and be done with it? All three were recently and prominently sentenced to 26 years in jail for playing a “contemptuous qawaali” (court’s words, not mine) during a TV program recreating Malik’s wedding. I don’t know about you, but Contemptuous Qawwali is my favorite phrase of 2014.
Junaid Jamshed was not “misguided.” He said what he said about women because he believes it
I mean, how can people not see the obvious bias? Actually, bias is too meek a word. This is bigotry. We are bigoted and opportunistic. The worst part is that it’s a sense of pride for so many here. What we are proclaiming, proudly, to our citizens and the world? That only Christians and Muslim men (and women) without beards blaspheme? Look like a cleric, and chances are you’re a wonderful person who is prone to being “misguided” rather than out to desecrate Everything. Jamshed was not misguided. He said what he said about women because he believes it, the little shmuck (are Yiddish putdowns kosher here?). And he got off because he is obviously and ostentatiously religious.
Our arbitrary, volcanic sense of offence is a vital sign (couldn’t resist) that we are dangerously ill. How disgusting, then, for Muslims in the diaspora to harp on about their “minority rights” (rights to sharia law, rights to worship, rights to live in peace, right to headscarves and Fridays off) while curling up before Junaid Jamshed on TV at night and dreaming of home fries.
I think Oscar Wilde had us in mind when he wrote: “And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.”