Maya Khan does it again – stir controversy, that is

It seems all is kosher, nay halal, in the war of ratings between television channels. The month of Ramadan is a bonanza for religiously-oriented programming on the Pakistani airwaves and there is vigourous competition between television channels for higher ratings – and consequent higher revenues – in the holy month. It was en vogue this year to get controversy magnets – be they channel-hopping televangelists, on-the-radar starlets or date-busting anchors – to get as hosts.
Maya Khan – no stranger to stirring hornet’s nests – has become embroiled in a second controversy this year. Earlier this year, she was sacked by a television channel for chasing couples in a public park. She has now invited ire by having a Hindu boy convert to Islam live on television during a prime-time Ramadan chat show. This act has been widely panned as being a ‘ratings stunt’ and has sparked criticism on behalf of religious minorities in the overwhelmingly Muslim country. During the live transmission, in just five minutes, the 20-year-old Hindu boy introduced as Sunil officially changed his religion under a cleric’s guidance. A packed studio audience congratulated him and shouted out suggestions for his new Muslim name before he was renamed Mohammad Abdullah — the consensus choice.
Abdullah insisted on Friday that he had been a willing convert. “I have accepted Islam by my own will and my family has no objection,” he told AFP by telephone from the Ansar Burney Welfare Trust, where a staff member said he has worked as their office boy for the last six years. But Pakistan has been criticised by rights groups for showing an increased lack of tolerance towards religious minorities, who complain of discrimination, and critics blasted the show, broadcast by private channel ARY on Wednesday.
“The joy with which the conversion was greeted and the congratulations that followed sent a clear signal that other religions don’t enjoy the same status in Pakistan as Islam does,” wrote Dawn, an English daily, on Friday. “In a country where minorities are already treated as second-class citizens in many ways, this served to marginalise them even further,” it said. Ramesh Kumar, a leader of the Pakistan Hindu Council, told AFP that Wednesday’s programme would encourage intolerance. “We are already intimidated against. The government gives little heed to the kidnapping of Hindus and forced faith conversion of our girls. Please don’t do things that make us more alienated,” he told AFP.
Talat Hussain, who hosts a political show on private television channel DawnNews, also warned against turning religion into mass entertainment. “Think about how Muslims would feel when Buddhists in Burma show similarly a Muslim being converted in a live TV show,” he told AFP. Ansar Burney, a prominent human rights activist, former federal minister and former advisor to the UN and whose welfare trust the boy works for, has also publicly criticised Maya Khan and the television channel for broadcasting this “drama”. He has stated on Twitter, that he intends to file a law suit of 10 million sterling pounds against Maya Khan and the owners of ARY and that The Burney Legal Solicitors would send a notice soon in this regard.
Expressing his disapproval of the act, he tweeted, “Anchor Maya Khan again created dirty drama by inviting my office worker Sunil to her show without my permission to convert him Muslim.” Even though the converted boy has claimed that he has converted of his own free will, Burney said in this regard that the story that the boy had told him was ‘painful’. He tweeted, “My worker has full right of freedom but what Sunil told me is a painful story of Drama so I have to take action.” He further tweeted, “A person’s religion or change of religion is a deeply personal choice; and as someone under whose care Sunil has grown up, I am enormously disappointed at the way this whole matter has been used for cheap publicity.” In a country where the track record for minority protection and minority right is not that great, concern has been expressed on various fora that such public acts could contribute to further worsening the situation by fostering intolerance. Many commentators have also expressed concern about how religion is being commodified to an almost fetishistic extent by ratings-hungry show-runners without regards for its social fallout.
According to Pakistan government figures, Hindus make up 2.5 percent of the nuclear-armed country’s population of around 180 million.

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  1. Muhibullah said:

    I'm sure the upper class Mulhideen are seething with anger at this. Ansar Burney's response is hilarious! "How dare she convert my slave to Islam without my permission"

  2. Malik said:

    Religion is a personal affair. Publicizing a conversion of faith is regrettable. Maya's own character credentials are questionable. She require some shame and introspection.

    • NazirKAli said:

      Yessir! Religion has become a moot point nowadays. Conversion on public TV and that too at the hands of a controversial anchor is more of a pre-rehearsed appeal for "LBW."
      The conversion and practice of religion being personal has unfortunately been made into a self-seeking promotional event. The self-seeker impliedly then considering himself / herself entitled to the highest moral pedestal. Salams

  3. aryanazlam said:

    Maha should air program on Burmese muslims as well. where goes Burni & co in respect of Burma muslims

  4. Pakistani said:

    ReName this paper as 'Trash Today' and the word is revert and NOT convert .The news item is being abused by you.20 years old is not boy but a man an adult.Do not scandalise the way you did about fake Mirzai issue early this year.

  5. Rao said:

    It is a shame for all of us. Tv Channels lack content and now they are using religion for entertainment by arousing emotions of our ppl, for the sake of earning more and more. It is such a personal matter, how could you show it on tv. It shows that we do not tolerate Non-Muslims and we are racists.

  6. Home-Grown said:

    What if tomorrow any Indian TV channel start doing the same thing to any muslim converting to Hindu or any other religion…. Maya Khan is a cheap person and she has nothing concrete to offer in her shows just cheap cheap subjects…..

  7. hussein shabbir said:


  8. btrwa said:

    How is this exactly controversial?

    More in the line, this article is stupid & ridiculous.

  9. shah said:

    I would just ask one simple question? why is it such a serious issue..every person should have freedom of expression, don't we all agree in that? If someone is converting to Islam….why is it such a wrong act, being a Muslim i think it is good. When the channels show content that i cant watch with my family, because its un Islamic in nature….i am told "you have the choice to change the channel" … if someone does not like any Islamic program….he has the choice to change the channel. Nobody is forcefully converting people on screen, I think it was just one case.

  10. tabveer ahmed khan said:

    maya is tottaly drama i don,t like her programe

  11. TANVEER said:

    maya programe,s are same like topidrama ,mujhe wahshat hoti hai ye programe dekh ker

  12. Bilal Ahmed said:

    sistar ap bot ahe ha g ma ap k show bot dakta ho agr zandig ma moqka mala to ap sy zaro malo ga g

  13. said:

    How much time did it take u to compose “Maya Khan does it again
    – stir controversy, that is | Pakistan Today | Latest news | Breaking
    news | Pakistan News | World news | Business | Sport and Multimedia”?

    It comes with quite a bit of great advice. Appreciate it ,Emory

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