Ramazan is meant to be a month of modesty, empathy and quiet reflection; sadly, all being qualities that our media lacks. This year, television channels have heaped one indignity after the other on its viewers. The latest among these is the spectacle that is Maya Khan. This vigilante posing as a talk show host was able to land a cushy gig almost immediately after being fired from another TV channel and is now back to her old tricks. On her Ramazan programme, Ms Khan broadcast the conversion of a Hindu man to Islam live on television, an act that combined sensationalism with insensitivity.
Obviously, prima facie, there is nothing wrong with a Hindu converting to Islam. But in a country where Hindu girls have been known to be abducted, forcibly converted and married off to Muslim men, showing this conversion on television will serve only to embolden those who discriminate against minorities. Also, given that we live in a country where minorities can freely convert to Islam but Muslims are banned from converting to any other religion, television channels should show a bit more sensitivity to minority religions. The media should act as an agent of tolerance. Instead, it is pandering to the base instincts of the majority, all in the name of earning attention and notoriety and, most importantly, the advertising rupees that accompany them.
Easy as it is to heap all the blame on Ms Khan, her employers and advertisers, it is also important to look inwards. There is no way she would be able to get away with her antics if there wasn’t a public demand for this. The stark reality is that we have become a nation that is enamoured of all the rituals associated with religion but display none of the tolerance and humility that religion requires. If we want the likes of Ms Khan off the air, the way to do that is by switching the channel. It is impossible to demand a more responsible media when our remotes automatically turn to the bigots and sensationalists.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 28th, 2012.