Comment: My brand of religion

Published: July 21, 2012
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Should we give powers of propagating different brands of religion on television to hosts?

Should we give powers of propagating different brands of religion on television to hosts?

Should we give powers of propagating different brands of religion on television to hosts? The writer is a former print and broadcast journalist who has worked at The News and Geo TV

Television channels are putting their best foot forward (as far as religious shows are concerned) in Ramazan. Whether it is Veena (famous for standoff debate with a Maulana on TV), Dr Aamir Liaquat (accused of inciting feelings of hatred against members of the Ahmadi community, resulting in many killings), Mubasher Lucman (exposed as an ally of Malik Riaz of Bahria Town fame, who claimed to have bribed journalists) or Maya Khan (of date-spotting fame) – they will all be selling their own brand of religion to the large majority of Pakistan. A number of fundamental questions stem from this situation: should we give powers of propagating different brands of religion like this on television to hosts? Are we ready to bear the consequences as a result? How is it that we can control this situation?

Regulation or lack thereof

Regulation has often been overlooked by private TV channels since independence was granted to them in a democratic fashion (ironically by a dictator). One does hear of the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority (Pemra) sending notices to channels for airing unsolicited and questionable content. But do they have a policy that is being followed by the television channels in general and one that is positioned to address issues arising as a result of airing religious shows? “Pemra doesn’t have direct intervention in hiring and firing show hosts,” says one official from the body. “We don’t micro-manage it. These decisions are made by media owners.”

Sensationalism kills

If the programme doesn’t have ‘masala’, it is unlikely to soar on the ratings chart. It is the same school of thought that has found its way into religious programmes, albeit promising more dire consequences. Whether it is spending a night in the grave to pray to Allah, crying endlessly for forgiveness in front of the viewers or invoking feelings of righteousness in the majority against minorities and deciding who is a ‘true’ momin (follower of Islam) and who is not – all these forms of sensationalism can have a deep impact on the viewership, especially when religion is such a sensitive topic. Producing and designing such shows with the same approach as political talk shows and news programmes is turning out to be the wrong approach. Hero TV’s decision to use Veena Malik on their Ramazan show (which has now been called off) is just one example.

Illiteracy increases responsibility

You may not have anything else but you will have a television set at home and a mobile phone in your pocket. Such is the advent of technological progress in Pakistan. This way, 60% or more people who fall beneath the literacy graph can be accessed with these tools of communication. What does that mean? It means that television channels have an increased responsibility in deciding the fate of the religious television shows. So what makes somebody like Aamir Liaquat eligible? The News reports: “Dr Aamir explained why he had returned to Geo TV and dismissed the allegations that he had done so for economic reasons. He said he wanted a platform that would disseminate his message to a larger universe and whose philosophy of ‘Geo aur jeenay do’ was close to his heart.” But like talkshow host Sana Bucha said in her interview with Newsweek Pakistan, “Why do you need someone on TV to tell you what God wants from you?”

TV show producers must realise that they have a great opportunity to introduce scholars who have command and knowledge over religion so they can guide people in the right direction and contribute in creating peace, harmony and tolerance in our society. The trend however is exactly the opposite – it is towards having opportunistic hosts who just want to create a sensation, gain popularity and in turn fool viewers in the name of religion by popularising their own brand, even if it turns out to have serious consequences.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (45)

  • Awans
    Jul 21, 2012 - 9:05PM

    Commercialization of Religion is always dangerous and that trend have been started in Pakistan and i dont know how and when it will end. Also Conspiracy theorists have a good time now as According to them Aamir Liaquat reinstatement is actually a Win for all the Muslims and a loss for a All Yahoodis and Ahmedis operating against angels like Aamir Liaquat.

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  • burner
    Jul 21, 2012 - 9:27PM

    It is people who need to open their eyes and brains and not to fall for this prey if they see something is not right switch the channel, whatever they see on tv is only a source of entertainment not a authentic place for Islamic opinions.

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  • Saleem
    Jul 21, 2012 - 10:23PM

    Blind leading the blind!

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  • waqas ahmed
    Jul 21, 2012 - 10:31PM

    culture eat the religion for breakfast….

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  • mr. righty rightist
    Jul 21, 2012 - 10:37PM

    What man!

    You guys waste more time on religion instead of something progressive.

    Such a country is bound to fail.

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  • positive pakistani
    Jul 21, 2012 - 10:51PM

    there is no mention about afridi in the whole article…..why is he there in the display pic?

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  • Ebtesam
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:05PM

    Totally Totally agree!!

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  • ali
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:11PM

    we should stay away from the tv and spend as much time as you can reading the quran and the SCIENCE of hadith. And we should listen to ulema like habib ali jifri and and if the deen humbles us then we are on the right track. but if we start getting filled with pride ie the feeling that i am more religious than this person x and therefore i am better than him then we are on the wrong path. such a feeling is from shaytan and not of a follower of Rasul Allah (S.A.W).

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  • Aatif
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:18PM

    News Flash!!! In the wake of recent celebrities going for Sehar programes, ZARDARI has decided to do a segment on TV, How to earn Rizq-e-Halal. Coming SOON on TV

    Please tune in and watch “Let Zardari show you how to earn Rizq-e-Hilal”

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  • nadeem khan
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:30PM

    Europe suffered at the hand of religion during its dark ages through kings, priest (mullahs) and warriors (talibans) ….get rid of all of them as soon as possible and chain them tight IF U WANA TAKE PAKISTAN INTO PEACE AND PROSPERITY….SHOW MORE SCIENTIFIC BASED AND DEBATEABLE ISSUES RATHER THAN PEOPLE LIKE AAMIR, SHAHID, MAYA, AND KEEP COUNTING..Recommend

  • SR
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:43PM

    **Very sad that religious extremists use religion to promote hatred to achieve their political agenda. Contrary to the teachings of all teachings

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  • MW
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:50PM

    Electronic media are a business and profit maximization their objective; should we be surprised at them making bucks from religion?

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  • Tribune Reader
    Jul 21, 2012 - 11:55PM

    In my view, Aalim is just the one who spends round about eight years at a Religious Madrassa and is capable of facing adverse circumstances in a brave manner. I keep watching television to find any useful material associated with the true religion Islam, especially in the Holy Month of Ramadan but unfortunately I most of the times fail in the accomplishment of my aim. Pure Alim’s and Mufti’s can only be found at two Television channels namely Madani Channel and QTV in terms of Mufti Muhammad Akmal Qadri , Mufti Qasim, Mufti Sohail Raza Amjadi, Allama Nisar Ali Ujagar, Haji Shahid, etc.Recommend

  • Waseem
    Jul 22, 2012 - 12:10AM

    Media is 12 years old (got “birth”/”freedom” in 2000). They MUST act and behave like 12 years old. Why would the public be surprized???

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  • choptocut
    Jul 22, 2012 - 12:42AM

    A BIG NO. [REASON: Religion must be kept personal. Especially in our society where tolerance against other religions is low].

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  • M@ni
    Jul 22, 2012 - 2:01AM

    Why Afridi picture in the article, just to gain the clicks ??? duhhhhh…..

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  • Kay
    Jul 22, 2012 - 2:50AM

    Religions divide humans and bring hatred towards each other. Period

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  • Mard-e-Haq
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:08AM

    A ‘true’ momin would not watch TV during Ramzan and will duly allow Veena Malik to entertain others on TV. Anyway, Veena wants to do taubah. Why not? As long as she has clothes on.

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  • Danish
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:42AM

    i like the ‘masala’ part of this coverage.
    this is the only reason Ulema have been replaced by these characters who were the reason of last year’s hit news.
    as The Dirty Picture quotes:
    Entertainment, Entertainment and Entertainment.

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  • Visibly Invisible
    Jul 22, 2012 - 5:46AM

    “You may not have anything else but you will have a television set at home and a mobile phone in your pocket.” Couldn’t agree with you more.

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  • Jul 22, 2012 - 6:27AM

    Mullahism pure and simple – nothing to do with Islam

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  • LOK
    Jul 22, 2012 - 6:44AM

    Aamir Liaqut is a hero of Jaahil Pakistanis, they deserve him.
    Powerful media houses are just doing what they always do – milking money.Recommend

  • Siddh
    Jul 22, 2012 - 6:51AM

    I am Not a very religious person but strongly agr ee with last para that we must leave religion to its established scholars (Just like we left cricket for afridi, politics for Amir and Films for Veena). No Molvi took a bat from Afridi or Ministry from Amir. Think of the coming generations who would think that such hosts are the true leadres of Islam and can guide us, thereby falling into a endless pit of even greater religious divides.

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  • Thair Younus
    Jul 22, 2012 - 7:34AM

    Very true! These sensationalists should be replaced with serious scholars. The way these persons represent religion helps anything but to create the real essence that a religion wants to create in its followers: The fear of God while dealing the routine life, The love and compassion for the humanity, The usefulness of one’s person to the concerned, honesty and justice even to one’s own disadvantage etc. These sensationalists emphasize only on formalities and superficiality that can only make the shallow society more shallower.

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  • ali
    Jul 22, 2012 - 10:15AM

    @Kay:

    just look at the past century ;world war 1, worldwar2, cold war …. were these because of religion?

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  • Fawad
    Jul 22, 2012 - 12:52PM

    we don’t need to modification in Islam, and in Urdu there is a saying;
    Jis ka Kam osi ko Sanjhy……
    So we have more Knowledge able people for spread Islam, and cricketers, and actresses especially like Veena Malik actresses we don’t need to you, and if you want to seek for forgiveness from ALLAH you don’t need for our help, or any TV channel.

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  • ALI
    Jul 22, 2012 - 1:50PM

    According to my opinion, ” Every body in pakistan should have right to practice the religion in his own way, u can not stop any body”. Aamir Liaquat opinion regarding Ahmedis is baseless and foolish. We also know Aamir
    Liaquat very well, How much religious this man is?. He should not point finger on others. He should first correct his self and then do so called tableeq

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  • THE
    Jul 22, 2012 - 2:22PM

    Which program is Afridi doing? Why is his pic there, if he’s not doing any programs?

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  • Hamza
    Jul 22, 2012 - 3:01PM

    Just a thought: Shouldn’t we be more focused on our religious duties in the month of Ramadan, instead of who is doing what on TV? Isn’t there a simple solutions for that? If you don’t like the program, change the channel. Even better, try turning off your TV for a change and do what is meant to be done in the holy month of Ramadan.

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  • batman
    Jul 22, 2012 - 3:16PM

    it might be commercialized but you cant deny that Amir liaquat is good at what he do and lot of people fall short in copying him. I think we should watch these shows but dont rely on them as the only source of guidance.

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  • Anas
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:18PM

    @ nadeem khan … maybe you are still living in the dark ages that the thought occurred to your mind that Islam can cause the same sufferings and haphazardnous that occurred in Europe due to their mischieves with their holy book and teachings. Grow up man!! We are living in 21st century and if there is 90% crap on the media and 10% right, then the ones seeking truth will go for that good 10% and leave the crap.
    @Kay… religions don’t divide people; races, ethnicity, color and hate divides people!! have you ever read Quran?? It says we have differentiated you with colors, casts and regions not that you may become proud/arrogant of it but just for differentiation.
    Media has nothing to do with religion, it has concern only but with the money & the honey (popularity).

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  • Zalim Singh
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:31PM

    mullahs win, as usual.

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  • Mj
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:50PM

    A country whose channels are dominated by religion and have zero programs on science is bound to remain in the dark ages. I wish these channels were clamoring to hire scientists to improve scientific literacy and remove superstitions instead of filling the heads of an immature nation with religion.

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  • rz
    Jul 22, 2012 - 4:56PM

    capitalism + religion = profit (amir liaqat) loss (Veena malik)
    politics + religion = bad power (zia) good power (PTI:P)

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  • LIAQAT ALI
    Jul 22, 2012 - 5:21PM

    @ali:
    In a way yes; It is a mix of economics clubbed with sense of righteuousness and superiorty over others that insitigate wars. Religion is just one manfestation of this phenomena , others being race , color and language etc. .

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  • SsBraveheart
    Jul 22, 2012 - 6:13PM

    Good food for thought for us as a viewer and for those who are producing such irresponsibly sponsored programs. well done Writer.

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  • Jul 22, 2012 - 6:14PM

    just watched AGAR on ary news , hosted by khusbakh shujaat. its really inspirational in the month of ramzaan to help other people who needs help.

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  • Anas
    Jul 22, 2012 - 7:00PM

    @Mj …… of all the channels broadcasted in the world give me the percentage of the channels you are asking for! Then compare it with the so called “immature, superstitious and stupid” channels you think so which drag the people into dark ages!! Ofcourse , you won’t be left with words as to how low their percentage is! Then you point the finger at Pakistani channels.
    A person gets what he aims for… wants good, gets good and vice versa!

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  • Ali Kazim
    Jul 22, 2012 - 8:15PM

    Agreed with the author of this article!
    And would like to add that the case is more or less the same in every other field of our country. Crooks gain the highest positions almost everywhere!

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  • Raees Ahmad
    Jul 22, 2012 - 9:32PM

    This was quiet a thought provoking article. Indeed true and a very much unpleasant fact.

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  • bhoja air wala
    Jul 22, 2012 - 10:50PM

    no comentsssssssss

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  • huzaifa
    Jul 22, 2012 - 10:52PM

    ET! thank you for highlighting the hypocrites. The strangest, repulsive and most obnoxious thing was to see a famous TV channel cashing on a person who has been amply and openly exposed on media while cursing,abusing and mixing it with pure names of holy people. Who are the people who are enjoying seeing this Hypocrite on TV. What has gone wrong with sensibility of our nation and media.

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  • No one cares
    Jul 23, 2012 - 2:37AM

    Due to these ignorant TV preachers (like Christian Evangelists) Pakistan is a country destined to be destroyed by GOD. If these so-called TV preachers were preaching the True Islam (as they claim) then why each year the country faces Natural Disasters like Earthquakes, Floods or Famine from Allah?
    True Islam should have brought this country success like it did 1433 years ago, not begging from America or Western countries (all Christian countries) to survive.
    If Pakistan continues on this ignorant preaching pattern, surely, Allah will continue to destroy it.

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  • No one cares
    Jul 23, 2012 - 3:10AM

    @Awans:
    Awan have you got any proof that Ahmadis are operating against angles like Aamir Liaquat? Or are you just spitting filth, as usual?
    As an Ahmadi Muslim, I know as a fact that when Bhutto & Zia-ul-haq tried to ban Ahmadi’s in Pakistan Allah blessed us to preach TRUE ISLAM all over the globe.
    Have Allah granted you eyes and ears to notice this OVER THOUSAND FOLD increase in Ahmdiyya Islam in over 200 countries?

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  • Awais
    Aug 22, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Mr, Let it be clear. Aamir Liaqat is much more famous for his ex[osed “Vulgar” Debate on a Internet as well as Veena is for her shameful Nude pics. The reason you wrote in your article are totally ridiculous or u restrain from the real picture.

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