With the month of Ramazan less than ten days away, something has to be amiss to keep federal minister Fawad Chaudhry and religious scholar Muneebur Rehman from having a go at each other over the moonsighting issue.
This year something is indeed amiss with concerns over the new coronavirus mounting and the ensuing lockdown bringing the country to a grinding halt.
But the science and technology couldn't hold back after the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee chairman told his followers to continue going to mosques while 'practising social distancing' at a press conference in Karachi on Tuesday. "The lockdown will no longer be applicable on mosques," he said.
The statement came at a time when there is countrywide backlash against the ban on congregational prayers and on the same day that the government extended the lockdown by two weeks.
"It has been brought to the attention of the ministry of religious affairs that if this is how the head of its ministerial committee makes a mockery of government's orders, than what could be expected of others?" he tweeted the next day.
مولانا منیب الرحمنٰ ہمارے بزرگ ہیں احترام ہے لیکن ان کو اتنا بڑا چاند نظر نہیں آتا اتنا چھوٹا کرونا وائرس کہاں سے نظر آنا ہے، وزارت مذھبی امور کی توجہ دلائ ہے کہ آپ کی وزارتی کمیٹی کے سربراہ اگر حکومتی احکامات کا یوں مذاق اڑائیں گے تو باقیوں سے کیا توقع؟— Ch Fawad Hussain (@fawadchaudhry) April 15, 2020
The politician from Jhelum, who also hosted a current affairs TV show and is not one to shy away from unorthodox exchanges, had started his tweet respectfully enough, calling the Mufti his elder and one worthy of respect.
But he went on to add that: "When he (the Mufti) can't see such a big moon, how will he spot the small coronavirus."
This referred to the apparent lack of concern on part of the religious scholar as the country tries to contain the outbreak. Fawad has previously criticised the Ruet-e-Hilal Committee, synonymous with the Mufti, for being archaic and regressive, while singling out Muneeb for his refusal to use science to determine the lunar cycle and, thus, avoid the annual debate over the sighting of the Ramazan moon. He also launched a Ruet app last year while calling for disbanding the committee.
His latest tweets, expectantly, triggered an onslaught of comments. Equally unsurprising was the lack of constructive debate on the issue, with the two sets of supporters fighting pitched battles.
It didn't take long for hashtags in favour of the scholar and those against Fawad to appear among the top Twitter trends in Pakistan.
Mufti Muneeb asks PM to 'rein in' his ministers after Fawad’s diatribe
The comments and responses to the thread varied, with some hailing Fawad while others coming out strongly in favour of the religious scholar. They varied in intensity as well, including those verging on the cruel and offensive -- a likely outcome when people are unable to keep emotions in check.
Thankfully, memes are a byproduct - and saving grace - of such exchanges, and this one didn't disappoint.
Quite a few Twitter users conjured up fake sayings and ridiculous quotes and attribute them to Fawad.
"Life is a journey and you are exempted from fasting when on one," is what one user fake-quoted Fawad as saying along with a composite of the two men.
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