Talat Hussain's slap in the face

Read Talat Hussain's article once and you won’t believe your eyes, let it settle in and you'll feel disgusted.

Aatekah Mir-khan October 28, 2010

“My husband is an addict. He doesn’t work to support the family. He does menial work on days of his choosing, the money from which goes to feeding his addiction. I work to feed and support our children. But he has told me that he does not want me to work long hours at somebody’s house. I can only stay out until the afternoon. It is a matter of ‘honour’,” was how a maid described her husband to another.

“Thank God, my husband does not do drugs. He doesn’t work, he screams at me and sometimes beats me up but I am grateful that he is not on drugs,” said the latter to the former. Makes one feel embarrassed at the blessings people are capable of counting, no?

The story is not an exception. Many of the women who work at people’s houses do so because their husbands are the worst kind of ‘stay-at-home’ spouses.

I kept wondering for a few days after the exchange related above where the ‘honour’ of men begins and where it ends. It is ‘honourable’ to beat up your wife and tell her that she cannot go out of the home after dark but it does not affect a man’s ‘honour’ that his wife’s putting food on the table and working two, three jobs to make sure their children get a minimum education while he stays at home, not helping with the kids? I don’t think there is anything wrong with women working or earning more than their husbands. The line that gets a little blurry is the definition of ‘honour’ that these men have. I attributed their ignorance to their lack of education and the social strata they belong to. But then came the ‘slap in the face’.

Talat Hussain, a man who has (or should I say had) a reputation for being quite bearable among the insufferable lot of TV anchors, wrote a column "Jolie ka Thappar" in an Urdu newspaper about Angelina Jolie’s trip to Pakistan and the report that she is said to have submitted to the UN. Read it once and you won’t believe what your eyes are reading, let it settle in and you will feel disgusted. While you are reading, you will ask yourself many times, “Where is all this repugnance leading to?” you get your answer in the last few sentences. Hussain takes Ms Jolie apart only to prove one point: someone as ‘low’ in character could look right through the government’s crap post floods.

Irrespective of your sex, everything in your body will scream “sexist, racist, judgemental” to name a few reactions. Not only does Hussain take the liberty of commenting on how Ms Jolie looked at a certain age, he also has the audacity to continually pass judgement on her, talking about her ‘colourful life’, her sexual proclivities and ‘myriad broken relationships’.

“Mercy is not one of her qualities,” Hussain opines. Excuse me, sir, but it doesn’t seem to be one of yours. Most pitiful perhaps is the sentence, “To remove attention from her dark episodes, Angelina Jolie has adopted multi-coloured children to mould herself into the paragon of mercy and maternal instincts.”

Hussain’s writing seems to suggest that we really are the ‘pure’ people and that other people do not measure up.
“This woman does not pass any test of Eastern values. Take a look at Article 62 and 63 of the Pakistani constitution. We put great value on good behaviour, following Islamic traditions... If Angelina Jolie had spoken of her deeds as a Pakistani she would have been stoned to death infinite times.”

He hammers the last nail in the coffin saying:
“People like Angelina Jolie, whether they be Muslim or non-Muslim, should be given no honour at all.” I do not know who died and made Hussain the queen.

Don’t dismiss him please. He does show some compassion, “How is it possible that this actress seems worth honouring more than her Pakistani hosts?”, he asks. It is possible very easily sir. ‘This actress’ has a lot more spine and is capable of showing mercy than you. She does not think that she has the right to be a moralist and she does not stick her ‘ugly nose’ (as you put it) where it does not belong.

I am not the first one to say it but it seems that Hussain’s column was him talking to the audience of Urdu newspapers. “She is willing to exceed any limits to get what she wants” writes Hussain. It seems so do you, Mr Hussain. You wrote what you wrote because you thought this is what would sell to a particular audience. But that is not a justification. Where are the ethics that you keep on harping about? Where’s that liberalism that you keep rubbing into other people’s faces who appear on your show? Where’s that ‘down with sensationalism’ that you keep reprimanding some channels and newspapers for?

The column highlights the discrepancy between Urdu and English journalism in the country. In addition, it makes sure that the reality bites you, right in the face. In our country, when men decide what is honourable and what’s not, it has nothing to do with their class or education.

Aatekah Mir Khan A graduate of the London School of Economics and a Daniel Pearl fellow, the writer is a senior sub-editor at The Express Tribune in Lahore. aatekah.khan@tribune.com.pk
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Omar | 13 years ago | Reply Please don't crucify the men of the country based on the impressions of a bigoted article written by some judgmental guy who obviously has some self esteem issues. Journalism in Pakistan is akin to the 'hard hitting' tabloids or 'rags' in the States. The difference is, people there have a choice b/w tabloids and the real news, where as in Pakistan, the line has been blurred to a mockery. I agree with you that men here have quiet a bit of self-esteem issues, but (I am not even sure why I am saying this) there are exceptions. Some of the brightest movements in human history were brought about by 'exceptions'. Okay now I sound crazy, anyway good piece.
SEB | 13 years ago | Reply people are so stupid that they haven't even bothered to properly understand what Talat Hussain tried to establish in his article... Yes he's been irrational at some places in his article but otherwise everything else is what international media already writes about Jolie... Talat has actually slapped us Pakistanis on our hypocrisy (by referring to her traits that we would find objectionable, raising hell about and yet acting like dumbest fans drooling over one meeting with her)... i don't care what jolie is and what has she done, its her personal life... but i agree with Talat analysis of the abysmal depths we as a nation have fallen to...
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