This Ramazan, everyone is a beggar

Published: July 30, 2012
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The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at 
http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

The writer is an Islamabad-based freelance communications consultant. She tweets @tazeen and blogs at http://tazeen-tazeen.blogspot.com

Religion dominates airwaves all year round in Pakistan. If it is not programmes of the religious variety, offering advice on every matter under the sun, then someone offers istekhara services to those who seek divine guidance. If it is not the theological debates, then it is programmes targeting women telling them how to be good Muslim wives and daughters, morning show hosts censoriously telling young men and women not to venture into parks and indulge in un-Islamic acts of sitting on the benches. If this is how things go all year around, the religiosity of the TV content goes up considerably during Ramazan.

Television channels with bigger budgets put up huge sets, get hoards of people to come in, and cram in everything in those few hours: real life tragedies, sob stories, hyper-religiosity, overt piety, a lot of charity, a bit of drama with a dash of emotions and tears, cooking shows, many giveaways and gifts for the audience present in the studios and at home, naats and religious sermons. And, last but not least, are the show hosts’ claims of grandiosity that they cook the best kebabs, give away most money to the needy on their show, get the best ratings and convert, or revert if you prefer that, people of other faiths to Islam — live on TV

All of that is fine because it is TV and at the end of the day, it’s a business and everyone wants to make some money. What gets my goat is that they are perpetuating a culture where people think asking others for money or begging is fine. In one example, a man who earns Rs8,000 per month came in and asked for half a million rupees to pay for his wife’s medical bills. One of his excuses was that he has four kids that he cannot afford to feed. The host’s reaction was not only to sympathise with him but to urge his viewers to donate money to him. I, on the other hand, wanted the host to ask this man why he procreated four times when he knew he was earning just Rs8,000 a month. Was he expecting a miracle or did he think his financial conditions would change all of a sudden?

By offering this man and the likes of him the money, aren’t TV channels being irresponsible and sending the message that it is fine to not plan one’s life or be responsible for one’s choices? Furthermore, they guilt others, who might be better off financially, into giving money to such people. Lines like “yeh bachi namaz parhtee hai, iskay ilaaj ke liye paisay dain” are discriminatory; if a person is regular with his or her namaz, he or she is said to deserve a greater chunk of charity than the ‘heathens’ who do not pray five times a day, no matter how grave their monetary needs are.

While financial assistance is fine, it would be better if it came with a bit of counselling on family planning and life choices. Also, instead of urging people to give money away for charity, why don’t we urge the audience to give decent wages to the people who work for them so they do not need to be supplanted with charity? If you really want to make a lasting and more dignified difference, how about vowing to pay decent wages to everyone who works for you — at work, at home and around you — and getting others around you to do the same?

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2012.

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Reader Comments (27)

  • entropy
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:01PM

    Religion dominates airwaves all year
    round in Pakistan.

    This is simply not true. I didn’t bother to continue reading at this point. I look forward to an article by someone else on the current surfeit of religion-begging programmes on our cable channels.

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  • White Russian
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:07PM

    The whole idea of turning religion into a big brother type reality show deserves our contempt. How hypocritical that a country which runs religious withch-hunt and inquisition in the garb of blasphemy laws, also allows to reduce spirituality into money making through entertainment.

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  • smj
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:23PM

    You said “I, on the other hand, wanted the host to ask this man why he procreated four times when he knew he was earning just Rs8,000 a month”

    Let me answer on his behlaf ” Affluent Pakistanis gave me no choice but to rely over procreation as an investment so that instead of being miserable and lonely in older age I can be taken care of by sons and daughters. You can’t see this ground reality with the golden glasses?”

    thank you

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  • Silent Spectator
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:24PM

    Tazeen, I agree 100% with everything that you have stated in your article above. I view these shows as a mockery of Islam and classic examples of using religion as a brand name to gain advertising/funds. All of course, while projecting the holier than thou attitude mixed with a deadly venom of religious zeal. I detest these shows so much that I have banned them from my home. One of the basic teachings of Islam stresses that if one hand helps someone, even the second hand should not know about it. Of course, the overzealous rejected-hosts-cum-recently-turned-televangelists do not see any harm in promoting their ‘piety’ or their business partners. Please don’t mix religion with business and vice versa.

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  • Pmbm
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:28PM

    Agree with writer to discourage begging and encourage responsibility.However a muslim writer should be well versed with Quranic knowledge to correct practices espoused on shows that are contrary to proper understanding of religion.

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  • Falcon
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:36PM

    Out of curiosity, why is the author angry most of the time in her op-eds?

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  • Nasir Mahmood
    Jul 30, 2012 - 11:43PM

    Hopeless article.

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  • Ali tanoli
    Jul 31, 2012 - 12:52AM

    What Auther trying to say i dont get it one making eight thousand ruppes and asking for money for his wife hospital bill it is fact miss tazeen pakistan is non walfare country where one goes to Tariq road and eat oudside with ten thousand ruppes iftar dinner and others make
    in whole month your politicion and army junta has accounts in foriegn banks your PM get Bali
    on not to write letter to swiss chore banks your country dictator makes NRO to stay on power
    for ever what else do u expect from poor peoples and we are muslim country and Ramadan is holliest month in islam we gotta do what we are doing u stop watching pk channels start watching dish …. and i tell you something i lived in west and one lady gives me urdu printed
    bible story pamphlets every month and that also karachi saddar christian missionery printed and every body wears cross and during christmass time t,v and peoples celebrate more than ptv.

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  • Mirza
    Jul 31, 2012 - 1:05AM

    I admire the writer for her bold Op Ed. It all starts from the top. Foreign aid, money from overseas Pakistanis are the largest source of foreign exchange in Pakistan. I have been asked this same question several times by extended relations and friends. They want me to help them out because of their large family size. I find it difficult to make them understand that I could not afford that many kids myself, how could I raise their large families? In addition I believe in teaching them how to fish instead of giving them fish that they would eat right away. Their attitude is “just give us the money and keep your advice to yourself”. Most Pakistanis who live overseas and visit Pakistan frequently can testify if they had similar experiences?

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  • Aasim Mukhtar
    Jul 31, 2012 - 1:06AM

    An outstanding Article. Reflects my state of mind as well. These channels are actually promoting a new profession the ‘beggership’ – though its not that novel in Paksitan but they are giving it an entirely new direction.

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  • gp65
    Jul 31, 2012 - 1:20AM

    @smj: “Let me answer on his behlaf ” Affluent Pakistanis gave me no choice but to rely over procreation as an investment so that instead of being miserable and lonely in older age I can be taken care of by sons and daughters. You can’t see this ground reality with the golden glasses?””

    The author did not say he should not have ANY kids. She said he should not have 4 kids, if his income does not allow him to support 4 kids.
    There are poor people in Bangladesh and India too. They do not have as many kids though they too are concerned about their old age.
    Unclear why you think affluent people are to blame as in “affluent people gave me no choice”. What would you have them do?
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  • Arifq
    Jul 31, 2012 - 2:16AM

    Hear, Hear! Well said madam. It has become a national identity to play the victim hood card with no accountability or introspection. Why not start by being better citizens and pay our TAXES! Of course, effects of taxes paid are not seen by my rishtaydaar, friends and neighbors! And then there is the issue of not trusting corrupt governments! All excuses poor! We as a nation have yet to take responsibility of our actions and seek moral refuge through overt acts of religion.

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  • Javed
    Jul 31, 2012 - 2:34AM

    Excellent article! It will however fall on deaf ears.

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  • Ali tanoli
    Jul 31, 2012 - 3:16AM

    The biggest beggers and beyghairath are our rulers who cant see missery of common men.

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  • x
    Jul 31, 2012 - 3:24AM

    @falcon, agree!

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  • mirealistic
    Jul 31, 2012 - 3:47AM

    Charity all across the world is collected for needy and helpless people. They are not asked questions like how many kids do you have? Why don’t you plan your life to avoid such situation? and so on and on….
    Although, the act of begging should not be promoted but it happens where states are weaker and no basic facilities are provided to masses.
    Bet me you cannot end these kinda things unless you fulfill their basic needs as it happens here in the west. It has nothing to do with the religion.

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  • Maria
    Jul 31, 2012 - 4:25AM

    @smj: So you mean to say that a poor person should have as many children as they wish and beg others in order to raise them? Your logic escapes me. If anything by having fewer children one can provide for those children better, give them a better education and also have them in a better position to care for you when you are old. As for these TV Islamic shows in Pakistan, they are just as scandalous as the Christian Evangelists you see begging for money on TV in North America. Every year one or another TV evangelist on TV here in North America is revealed to be a fraud just like Liaqat Hussain.

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  • Rashid
    Jul 31, 2012 - 8:05AM

    There is one problem, and that problem will stick with us. The problem is simple, but it curtains our sensations in such a perfect manner that we get no realisation whatsoever. The problem is that we are sitting in our damn air-conditioned drawing-rooms, with education from a decent school or university, and now we cannot relax but keep pointing our petty fingers on those who enjoy neither of these luxuries. We never bother to rise up from our biases, and view the matters from other’s frame of reference. The guy with Rs. 8,000 earning per month could not have afforded the treatment of his wife even if he had one child. We are living in a microscopical cuboid, and unless we get out of it, and get rid of the ultra-xenocentrism, which is affecting us, we wouldn’t be able to produce productive suggestions. Critique is good, but timings and examples also matter. We need not dictate our “supra-liberal and highly-intellectual” viewpoint to others all the time. Plus, these shows also provide jobs for many people. Usually, high donations are given in cases where a larger lump-sum of money is required for the solution of a particular matter.

    Not intended directly to anyone, but these words came from the heart!

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  • teewana
    Jul 31, 2012 - 8:53AM

    @smj:
    my dear , in this way you are creating more hungry mouths to feed but no clue from where they will be fed . welcome to ” child labor “

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  • Gratgy
    Jul 31, 2012 - 9:36AM

    Pakistan is not based on religion, it is based on opportunism. Religion is just a tool for the leaders to rule the sheep

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  • nomi
    Jul 31, 2012 - 9:57AM

    @ Rashid

    Supra liberal! Has it become a fashion to paint anyone as Supra-liberal the moment he/she presents an alternative argument and that too a logical one?

    The person who earns 8000 a month is himself presenting an excuse of his inability to run his family affairs – which is he has 4 children.

    The writer just suggested as to why he had four children if he could not afford to look after them?

    You can have as many children as you want but do not expect the society to provide for them. They are your responsibility. At best the Govt can provide equal opportunities to compete.

    And the point about productive suggestions, family planning was a productive and a reasonable suggestion, but the way it has been decimated is well known.

    Lastly, the image you portrayed of people living an opulent lifestyle symbolises the parochial mindset that people who live such a lifestyle should not be taken seriously as they have no logic.

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  • Nonplussed
    Jul 31, 2012 - 1:53PM

    @Author,

    Re: “… morning show hosts censoriously telling young men and women not to venture into parks and indulge in un-Islamic acts of sitting on the benches”

    What in the world does religion, any religion for that matter, have to do with people sitting on benches in parks? This doesn’t make any sense.

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  • Faraz
    Jul 31, 2012 - 3:28PM

    does anyone know about Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow'shierarchyof_needs). This goes from bottom to top. People should have their Physiological, safety, Love and belonging and Esteem needs fullfilled before they can be productive for other people.

    People commenting over here are way higher in the hierarchy than people they are talking about. and you are contributing to the society because you have some of your needs fulfilled otherwise you would be in the same position as they are.

    So talk some sense please Guys and Ms.Blogger.

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  • Saleem
    Jul 31, 2012 - 3:49PM

    Agreed 100%. Instead of having some people preaching, they can at least get into a decent discussion with people. Tell them about their social responsibilities. Excellent article.

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  • NO JOY
    Jul 31, 2012 - 8:22PM

    @smj,
    recreation might be a cause behind his procreation.but if rich people start procreating since they can afford to have multiple offspring ,and poor follow your PoV,then its recipe for disaster.
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  • Rashid
    Aug 1, 2012 - 12:48AM

    @nomi, I, my friend, may have been unable to underscore my point. Firstly, I totally understand that we need to invest in our human resource capital, equip our citizens with knowledge and skill, and encourage employment; this is the long-term solution, and would yield a self-sufficient lifestyle of inhabitants of the country. Logical solutions pertaining to this are definitely appreciated. However, my point pertains to the mindset. While proposing the solution, you need to gauge the timings and circumstances. Is our government providing equal opportunities to all citizens, or at least making ardent efforts in providing the basic necessities of life to the citizens? If not, we have to view the problem from the reference point of the one afflicted, and then present our solution.

    About “supra-liberal”, my dear friend, the words were in quotes, because as far as I am concerned, this approach is not liberal. And this is where we get caught in our own net; imposing our viewpoint on others as if we our views are superior and others’ inferior.

    Plus, I never said that those who enjoy luxuries cannot talk logical, or that we should not accept their logical and constructive criticism. But, you need to give the criticism a rest some times.

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  • Shakeel
    Aug 1, 2012 - 6:00PM

    @Mirza
    This is also very personal to me. I am suffocating from relatives who are nothing but leeches. They cannot look further than their nose. They don’t think about the consequences of having too many children. I have to make such a huge sacrifice to educate my children. My children’s future is a huge source of anxiety. But my relatives they just carefree and don’t think about tomorrow.

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