A case of two extremes

Published: January 25, 2011

The writer is a Lahore-based blogger and a former editor of Daily Times’ Sunday Magazine

I checked my Facebook the other night and found my newsfeed more or less hijacked with some 450 Facebook friends singing praises of Veena Malik. One friend wrote: “Veena Malik, you’re my hero. That mullah deserved every word that you said to his face. They’re nothing but a bunch of hypocrites!”

This led me to watch Kamran Shahid’s show, “Frontline”, on which Ms Malik appeared and had a confrontation with a cleric by the name of Mufti Qavi. I thought that to put the actress next to a maulana was nothing but an attempt to get high ratings. After all, this is what people would watch, but this is yet another example of our media exploiting the current polarisation in Pakistani society. The mullah-bashing that Ms Malik indulged in on the show made me think that perhaps it is okay to bash people in Pakistan if they are bearded.

Having said that, Veena Malik deserves credit for pinpointing the problems within the clergy of Pakistan, but her behaviour on the show is proof that Pakistanis find it very convenient to take extreme sides and see everything in black and white.

Then there is the question of whether she is really the face of Pakistan. For instance, blogger Faisal Kapadia put it well when he said: “Without questioning her morals, let’s not make her the face of Pakistan; four layers deep in foundation and gyrating to “Sheila ki Jawani” in the most vulgar way possible. This isn’t our face, no matter what the bleeding heart liberals defending her will say.”

I would say that the actress’s only self-defence lies in her belief that there is no ‘dress code’ in the Pakistani entertainment industry, and that she was representing herself on “Bigg Boss” as an entertainer. Even this, however, seemed to be an ostensibly weak argument.

On the said show, she tried to justify wearing “shorts” but not a “two-piece” (the reference obviously being to a swimsuit) while in India. However, where do Pakistani actresses draw the line on this — as in why say ok to wearing shorts but not to a ‘two-piece’?

As for the electronic media, it is unfortunate that some of our TV anchors think it a selling point to openly question the morals of their guests. Enough with the finger-pointing already, since this only deepens a clash of opinions/views and does nothing about generating a collective rational response to a pressing problem.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 25th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (51)

  • Amna
    Jan 25, 2011 - 12:52AM

    Thanks. Thank God someone has a fair and unbiased view. Even our liberals are extremists in their thinking. Recommend

  • Rabia
    Jan 25, 2011 - 1:50AM

    actually you got Veena’s argument totally wrong. She didn’t say that there was no dress code in the Pakistani entertainment industry, she said she knew very well what the dress code in the film & fashion industry is and she knew that her behaviour on Big Boss did not exceed those limits. Moreover she pointed out (correctly) that there is a double standard between what a female Pakistani actress can do on Indian TV and what she can do in the local film and fashion industry. i.e., the chest-thumping Pakistani (generally male) is much more sensitive to what a Pakistani woman does on an Indian TV show than on a Pakistani movie or fashion photoshoot.Recommend

  • Adil
    Jan 25, 2011 - 3:48AM

    Yes your column seems unbaised and fair to me as compared to another one.
    It is a common practice of media henchmen to bring such people for defending islam who dont have any experience into dealing with such things.
    And secondly if pakitani men or any one thinks that wearing shorts for a women in Pakistani Film industry is allowed but not in India then this has got nothing to do with his religious attachment. Its just a nationalistic feeling and this nationalism is not at all allowed in Islam.

    The solution to this problem and every other problem lies in Islam and not any other system.Islam gives men a code of conduct and similarily it gives a code to women. That code applies on every muslim man and women regardless of his or her locality.Wearing unislamic dress is not allowed for both men and women in islam every where not jsut in Pakistan.
    Well but whatever we say there is a battle going on between seculars and islamic minded people in pakistan and the parting lines are becoming evident gradually.Recommend

  • Emmon Khan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:38AM

    What you point out are small-time ‘technical’ issues of no-consequence. What Veen (our brave Princess) did was much more than this. She challenged the status-quo of mullayiat and male chauinism in Pakistan. This is a paradigm shift. You have to think deeper than this to understand what Veena achieved in just one hour that so many Pakistani woman could not achieve in their entire lives! Bravo Veena! the princess of Pakistan.Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 5:16AM

    For the love of god, know what “extremism” is. Calling Veena a hero is NO extremism but rather EXAGGERATION… but imposing your own views on her lifestyle IS extremism.

    Liberal extremism or extremism of the two sides are just futile defense by Mullahs and those “neutral” people. Recommend

  • Sumaan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 6:12AM

    Since the violent secularists went on to bracket Ghazi Mumtaz Qadri as an extremist, I have begun to love extremism.Recommend

  • Speak your mind
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:17AM

    Aren’t you making news out of it too? Then why blame the TV and other media? Isn’t that hypocrisy?Recommend

  • zoya
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:19AM

    we are with u veenaRecommend

  • ali................
    Jan 25, 2011 - 9:24AM

    we as Muslims losing our true identity which being exploited in the hand of our clerics,,,but they are not solely responsible of what we reap in this poor country,,,,,as a nation we have made our mind to serve fell peoples luxuries….our elite class is luxury loving and we have taken oath to become their easy accessible commodities of their wealth heaping ,,,,,,our holistic,morals as a nation hibernated just to make few people happy and enjoy the power and luck of the nation……veena malik is to provide entertainment who watch tv shows,,,,she is not our political leader nor she is belong to clerics class,,,the role of both of these classes is not worth mentioning,,,, Recommend

  • Naz Khan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:09AM

    Well i think veena herself didnt know what she was saying as she was telling the truth and just try to insult the mulana sb. As she has no respect for herself and neither for the the mulana sb. The point was to clarify her position not make allegations on the mulana sb.Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 10:15AM

    What exactly is the real face of a Pakistani woman? does it come covered with a hijab? or a dupata on the head? or a burqa? can a female face that is not covered in a hijab or burqa qualify as the face of a Pakistani woman? I would say yes, but then many would rather have her in a hijab, yet others not have her show her face at all. Those who reject her appearance would use approximately the same line of reasoning as the one that is used to reject Veena’s claim of PakistaniatRecommend

  • fedup
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:17AM

    a very balanced views of anum pasha…Recommend

  • fedup
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:18AM

    agreed with u @Naz Khan: Recommend

  • IZ
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:20AM

    Once again we have the outlandish and disgusting argument that there is moral equivalence between completely different things. If your morals are so messed up that you think that wearing shorts in India is JUST AS BAD as blowing up mosques and schools and murdering innocent men, whipping women, beheading policemen and raping children then I suggest you need a quick course in ethics. Was Veena Malik trying to force you and everyone else to where shorts and gyrate to ‘Sheila Ki Jawani?’ No she was not so don’t pretend that there is any comparison.
    .
    I have no use for the film industry, I believe reality shows are useless trash and I refuse to watch Indian TV. I don’t know much about Veena Malik beyond her appearance on the news and find her vulgar and even somewhat sleazy. But next to the extremists who condone murder, twist religion, spread hate and try to force their bestial views down the throats of the rest of society she is a moral giant. Sadly that speaks more about how far our society has fallen than it does about Veena Malik.Recommend

  • Mp
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:24AM

    Hey Anum was glad to read your article here (this is Mansha from Karachi btw) but there were a few things i don’t exactly agree with.
    It is true that perhaps Pakistanis do see things in black and white though it is hardly surprising since we are for all intents and purposes a country teethering on the brink of both modernisation and traditionalism. Are we going forwards, are we going backwards? The answer lies in one’s own perception of the current scenario. That being said the fact that in between all the bomb blasts, rapes, murders, robberies that are happening everyday in this country the fact that the dress code of one person becomes the topic being debated at every dinner table, goes to show that we as a people have no sense of propotion. That the morality of this act is being questioned when many more immoral things are happening everyday, gives validation to most of the things Veena said at this interview. Whether one considers her a weak performer or a class act is not the matter in question.
    Lets face it. We Pakistanis have no qualms about placing every moral code on the shelf as long as it’s done behind closed doors. The thing we hate most is ‘exposure’, having others know the dirty little things we do so that we no longer are allowed the pretense, the holier than thou stance we so covet.
    Veena wore what she considered representative of her personality, being consequentially branded as too ‘exposed’ and then she went on to say what she did, exposing things about the society here that would make more than a few shift in their seats.Double whammy.Recommend

  • Shahryar Ahmed
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:26AM

    It is plain & simple; Ms. Malik the way she conducted herself, any liberal or hardliner would be ashamed off. The sad part is that many of our so called entertainers do not understand that you need to act as she did to get fame.

    Case in point, Shilpa Shetty in Big Brother (the original). I saw that show & she conducted her self with dignity & that’s why she won it.

    Whereas, Ms. Malik did that show with only 2 goals in mind, Not to win it, she was clearly fishing for a role in a big budget movie (no matter even a vamp would have done) & maybe she can land herself one of those multi billionaire types & not for marriage.

    She should have known that when on that show, whether we or she likes it or not, she was representing Pakistan. With celebrity fame, come responsibilities. She should have known better.Recommend

  • Sheheryar
    Jan 25, 2011 - 10:29AM

    Very balanced article. Mullahs should stop comparing Pakistan with Saudi Arabia while liberals need to realize that after all they live is an Islamic state. Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 11:12AM

    its good to see sensible people like you who are able to identify the root problem between the liberals and the mullah brigade i.e. polarization in opinion.

    Surely, the mullah and Veena do not represent me and neither my country.Your views on the topic are admirable and keep up the good work.

    My two cents:

    “We should stop protecting one evil by glorifying the other one…”Recommend

  • Hammad Khan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 11:18AM

    I agree with with you here that our society is becoming increasingly polarized, because of the new rise of liberals in a predominantly conservative society. The rise of liberals is one thing that Pakistan needed most, among other things. However, this polarization has caused us to lose the civility in debate, or debate for that matter. The basic problem is illiteracy. However, many would argue that even the ‘educated’ class, especially in media, is not acting civil and logical at all in their arguments. I think that that is to because of the lack of ‘education’, because we do not educate our kids in Pakistan, we indoctrinate them. However, that is a little besides the point. The case with Veena Malik shows the intolerance, conservatism, and lack of freedom in our society. We have limited Islam only to a tool with which we gauge others. Since when did God give us the power to play God? NO ONE has the right to judge anyone. Whatever Veena Malik did, is a matter between God and her. Who are we to judge anyone? And that ‘Mufti’ who was acting an authority on Religion rather than playing a scholar of Islam, was a hypocrite. If he is so fond of Islam, then why was he so quick to ignore Islam’s teachings about respecting women and not exercising the power to adjudicate, which does not belong to him. And that sarcastic and degrading tone that anchor used with Veena Malik, was simply condescending. Veena Malik was not representing Pakistan or Islam in any way, not because she should not/deserves to not represent Pakistan, as the article implies, she was just representing her self. If people are so stupid to judge an entire country or religion by the actions of one person alone, then the fault lies with the people who are so in a hurry to judge. People! Please stop playing God and learn to respect others. AND DON’T JUDGE OTHERS.

    P.s: it’s high time that we stop using the word ‘extremism’ in every sentence that we use. As people have been labeling Mullahs and liberals as extremists, then according to that, most of our populations is extremist. Then ‘extremism’ becomes normal and by definition, it is not extremism then. So PLEASE labeling everyone as extremists!Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 11:20AM

    A great piece! Well done Anum!Recommend

  • Rashid Shahzad
    Jan 25, 2011 - 11:23AM

    Fair and Unbiased view.Good Recommend

  • Awais
    Jan 25, 2011 - 11:39AM

    Who is Veena Malik again?? when did she gain so much importance that we started talking about her on the national forum?? Veena you are just another girl that works on tv.. nothing else.. go live with it..Recommend

  • alizeh haider
    Jan 25, 2011 - 11:46AM

    How she wants to dress, or how she wants to behave in this or any other show is her personal choice. No maulana, no aalim and no other human being has the right to judge whether what she did was right or wrong. No person on earth, even the holiest of all holy maulvis can say that they have not sinned or wronged. Hence, why dont we all worry about our own conduct and leave judging people up to God?.Recommend

  • Uzi Khan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 11:49AM

    Very well written…thoughts exactly of any sane person..This recent trend in the facebook status shows the confusion that we have in our minds about terms like radicalisation, moderation….She definately is not my hero..and god forbid she does not represent Pakistan. Most of the people just follow the bandwagon of “Veenaisation”, thinking that this is the most popular trend in the drawing room chats. It was surprising to see people with peer following posting such wacky comments, considering that they could play a pivotal role in forming a comman man’s ideas I also agree that this channel is just trying to get high ratings by putting two extremes in front of each other. There was nothing heroic in the way she was defending herself…women in this category usually talk the same tone and conten..nothing surprising there. And of course she ws representing herself as an individual, no one should pass judgement about others, there are so many things that need to be corrected at own house.Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 12:22PM

    Actually, after the end of the article, i wasnt really sure what anum pasha’s verdict really was.

    So people shouldn’t have opinions at all, Anum?

    Sincerely,
    A bleeding heart liberal.Recommend

  • Rabiya
    Jan 25, 2011 - 12:29PM

    What I feel a balanced and moderate approach is required from both sides.Muslim Clerics have’nt seen the said show but they are making remarks on some exclusively selected clips that are intended to create sensation at masses level. If we consider our politicians, sportsmen or people from other walk of life our ambassador of our country than why not Veena. Than why we speak out when our sportsmen do something ill when they are outside Pakistan. Veena no doubt a very promising and talented girl but she must realise the integrity of her self and her country. As a nation we are so called liberal people. Things have changed just apparently in our society but inside we carry sick approach. So if Veena is expecting some broad vision from Pakistani people thats her wrong thinking.Recommend

  • Ahmad
    Jan 25, 2011 - 12:35PM

    I don’t know what Pakistanis feel, but I know one thing Islam is the middle path and Religion is both personal and collective. Whatever she says, Big Boss is not seen as a film but a reality program where participants show their character and as an Indian I was shocked to see a Pakistani Muslim do things that an Indian Hindu won’t even do. Shilpa in big brother in UK was 100% more respectable than her.
    Watching the interview her arguments were nothing more than childish rants and ad hominem attack on the religious man who was so respectful to call her sister.Recommend

  • Waqas
    Jan 25, 2011 - 1:01PM

    I agree with the columist, but to some extent there must be a line between what we do in our country and we have to, while representing ourselves to others…. in my opinion the so called brave princess was extra ordinarily involve with the Ashmit and that leads to her to have questions & comments on board…….may be a publicity stunt to keep herselve at the forefront..Recommend

  • Tony Singh
    Jan 25, 2011 - 1:25PM

    @IZ:
    If you do not know about her, then why comment? Come down from your Ivory tower. Every country has its rouge elements, we define society by how it deals with them.Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 1:56PM

    It is nice to see sanity prevailing and criticizing both the extremes i.e. Liberalism and Fundamentalism.

    Thumbs up!Recommend

  • Jan 25, 2011 - 2:03PM

    Beautifully Put! Nicely criticizing the both extremes. Indeed we direly need to know that extremism is bu-polar.

    Thumbs up!Recommend

  • parvez
    Jan 25, 2011 - 2:06PM

    O!! leave the girl alone. She deserves to be supported and even if she was a little indiscreet on some stupid TV reality show is that reason enough to vilify her ?
    The little of what I saw of Veena Malik on the Kamran Shaid “Frontline” show made me smile and say “well done girl !!! “Recommend

  • Loyee Khan
    Jan 25, 2011 - 2:10PM

    I was pleased to see a Molvi being pinned down. These clerics have become so egotistical that they have virtually declared themselves as vice regal on earth. If you do not agree with them, your head can be rolled through and decree. Well done Veena for your courage to show true face to Molvi. You are also requested to follow norms of our society if you do not want to land in trouble.Recommend

  • Ayesha
    Jan 25, 2011 - 2:36PM

    An honest change from most of the other articles. Pleasantly surprised that an attempt has been made to acknowledge that both sides maybe wrong here. Completely agree that the two were pitted against each other for TRPs, I can think of much better things for the muftis to do with heir time. Do a show on how Suicide Bombing in Haraaam, maybe?

    P.S. I have to say the editing on Tribune’s part is really disappointing! Came across an unedited version of this article on Facebook…Anum, you should post a link here…Recommend

  • Noor
    Jan 25, 2011 - 2:52PM

    Quran tells us the difference between animals and humans is that the animals are not aware of even their own well being, and those humans who want to exercise their sweet will without following any principles or laws (given by the creator) are worse than animals. (you’ve to read Quran for this).
    We are also told about the consequences, when we stop asking our fellow people to follow what is right and what is wrong (Amar bi maroof wa nahi unil munkar), which we are facing in our country to a large extent.
    Sensor board of an Islamic republic country is expected to ensure that the media being screened in own country follows the laid down limits.
    there is a limit regarding extent of body covering, topics of discussions in public, relationship between real relations of opposite sex and those of un-real relations. Guidance is also available about methods of earning money / fame / entertainment, etc.
    I don’t know whether we have provision of Shariah court in our constitution or not, who may comment or take notice of those who cross their limits, both who do something objectionable and those who allege others without justified reason.
    Afterall, the Prophet Muhammad PBUH declared a Muslim person to be more worth respected than place and date of Hajj.
    an entertainer should perform in a dignified manner, he/she should be treated in a dignified manner and a religious scholar should be treated with due respect.Recommend

  • Mam
    Jan 25, 2011 - 3:14PM

    Well written :)Recommend

  • Mam
    Jan 25, 2011 - 3:16PM

    Stop taking sides people..Anum finally gets what ive been telling her all my life:P.its the extremes that are killing our country..not Veena/Sheila aur maulvis..It’s the division..that’s become the size of the grand canyon since Musharraf happened..Learn to take the middle ground and stop hating “Mullahs” or “Veenas” so much. Recommend

  • Anonymous
    Jan 25, 2011 - 3:19PM

    The “only normal person” here…please..yes it IS extremism. NOT exaggeration..Extremism in the dictionary does not include or imply force..go check for yerself. ..because that kind of liberalism does stomp on other people’s beliefs.They just use different weapons of choice against each other.Recommend

  • Mam
    Jan 25, 2011 - 3:21PM

    I agree with Noor..well said! Recommend

  • AHR
    Jan 25, 2011 - 3:41PM

    a very balanced writeup. We needed this sanity check badly. Recommend

  • HIK
    Jan 25, 2011 - 4:18PM

    What a relief to finally discover a neutral voice. Debate between a moulvi and a film star is obviously not going to bring a sophisticated debate. Someone sensible but not on the extreme side should be made to discuss this issue with her, without enraging her.Recommend

  • Jan 26, 2011 - 2:41AM

    (Frankly, I’m surprise ET published it)

    A very mature, UNBIASED, balanced and a neutral opinion. For all the bloggers out there, this is the essence of journalism !
    Good job.Recommend

  • Dr+Dev+Mishra
    Jan 26, 2011 - 2:54AM

    An Indian butting in, and saying something DIFFERENT-

    Reality shows like big brother (UK)- very sleazy- and big boss (India)- tasteless- are a shame in the modern world. The 2011 equivalent of the Victorian freak show.

    When I saw Veena last month, I was elated- thank God the Pakistanis also had a Rakhi Sawant to embarass them!!

    But when I saw her crying and being attacked I felt sympathy for her. Actually, the moulvi did not appear too malignant- but am I the only one who thought the anchor was nastiness personified- judge, jury and executioner.

    I think, there is just too much anger in Pak society. Period.

    Am I the only one here who is also worried that some Mumtaz Quadri may take a pot shot at her if we go on attacking her ??

    A worried Dr Mishra, from UK and IndiaRecommend

  • Ali
    Jan 26, 2011 - 4:04AM

    I agree with the writer.Recommend

  • Jan 26, 2011 - 8:17AM

    (Frankly, I’m surprise ET published it)

    A very mature, UNBIASED, balanced and a neutral opinion. For all the bloggers out there, this is the essence of journalism !
    Good job..Recommend

  • ehabs
    Jan 26, 2011 - 9:59AM

    There is only one side that holds extremist views in Pakistan, and that side isn’t the left. Stop demonizing the very people who actually campaign to preserve the liberties, women like yourself enjoy.

    On another note, while this writer’s “neutral” view may come off as heavenly to you all, studies have shown again and again that individuals who are undecided in their politics, or “neutral”, are among the least intelligent in society. Some food for thought.Recommend

  • Anjabeen Shah
    Jan 26, 2011 - 12:14PM

    I think this is quite a balanced article. And l think this should be the last word on this fiasco too. We have many serious national issues to think about and find solutions to. I’m sure we all have ‘ bleeding hearts’ after yesterday’s tragic events and watching the victims’ families’ grief-stricken faces today pushes all thought of such trivial matters to the other side of the horizon.Recommend

  • Tyrone
    Jan 26, 2011 - 12:36PM

    When woman are raped and paraded naked and undergo all sorts of torture and the clerics do nothing forget a fatwa not even a condemnation of the acts that brings disrepute to Pakistan and its relgion too. Does it not?

    In her book Taboo Dr Fauzia Saeed mentioned the hypocrisy of the clerics- they asked Zia to close down Heera Mandi, Zia in reply asked them what to do with the women? He got no reply so he suggested to them to marry the women and make them moral. The clerics replied in the negative so he told them Heera Mandi stays.

    One must state that we do not encourage what Veena did (from what I’ve seen or heard) but it is sad to see that due to prejudice and the boys will be boys mentality when Adnan Sami Khan danced with half naked Indian women in his songs,in some cases in sensual poses there was no national outrage.

    Our own film industries are on paragon of virtue- look at some of Reema’s dances that are mujra like, witness the appaling vulgarity in Punjabi and Pushto films. Aren’t these shameful to our eyes?

    I’m curious about Faisal Kapadia’s comment for as far as I know people against Veena’s actions were saying she was representing Pakistan, those supporting /defending her were asserting that she was not a national representative.

    Another point Veena knowingly went to the talk show and she knew it was a golden opportunity to cash in on. So any tear eyed theatrics from her cannot be interpreted as anything else than more drama. Afte all she’s a drama queen!Recommend

  • Noor
    Jan 26, 2011 - 1:01PM

    Thanx@Mam: Recommend

  • Arachnid
    Jan 26, 2011 - 2:53PM

    Why do people write when they have nothing to say? This is one of the worst pieces I’ve seen in the Express Tribune. And I’m including the blogs section. That’s saying something.Recommend

  • Jan 26, 2011 - 4:52PM

    I heartily agree with Arachnid.Recommend

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