- Commercialising an ideology is the biggest injustice you can do to its followers
The influence of media on society is as unavoidable as death except that the latter kills instantly while the former tends to poison in a slow and subtle manner. It would be wrong to say that the influence is always deleterious. The reflections cast on people help in transmogrifying cultural norms and societal values; the type of influence – good or bad – is determined by the content being aired or published. Written manuscripts, in the form of books or newspapers, require lettered readers to be properly decoded. Electronic media, however, has only one requirement to disseminate information – eager listeners. Though both essentially demand knowledge of the language being used, reading is somehow considered a hard row to hoe in front of listening. That is the reason why we all speculate and opine on what Malala Yousafzai has written in her book on the basis of what we have heard. That is the reason why Reham Khan’s book has stirred the entire nation’s emotions before even getting on store shelves.
Religious intolerance is, perhaps, the biggest threat currently posed to Pakistan. From Talibanisation to mob lynching through suicide bombings, all are merely its offshoots but with varying set of dynamics, each having its own contributing factors and consequences. Mob lynching, for instance, is not a recent phenomenon, yet certain factors have developed with the passage of time that have indirectly pooled in its increase and in formulating people’s approach towards it. The slogan of decimating the blasphemers involves snatching away the right to adjudicate and penalise from state’s judicial system. A very rare chance exists of all members constituting the mob being ardent and practising followers of the religion. It is clearly one’s inclination to receive applause from one’s circle that we see manifestations of such feigned behaviour.
Where does this encouragement to make a show of pretence come from? Call it either a contributor or just another demonstration of the mindset but transformation of religious shows into game shows has proven to be gravely problematic. The whole mess has eliminated individual effort from the picture and shifted the entire focus towards affectation. As reported by BBC, these game shows during Ramadan are the “hottest ticket in town”, their popularity portraying public demand.
The environment staged in these shows presents hundreds of people along with several clerics hailing from different sects and a few hosts who at first conduct religious segments, including milad, recitation, sermons and prayers, followed by sehr and iftar meals and, finally, gaudy games – an amalgam of almost everything. A prayer, in its essence, is a way of remembering God in solitude. It is an expression of submission, a gesture that is performed by a believer and accepted by God. It does not need any medium. Then why make it a ritual of Ramadan gaming? Not casting any doubts on the intentions of participants, but such displays create problems for those who prefer to do it the right way. Further agglutinating it with cooking and gaming segments not only scars the sum and substance of religious practices but also harms the actual purpose behind them.
Whatever the agent be in other societies, the factor of activities done for the sake of pretension does hold true in Pakistan
Commercialising an ideology is the biggest injustice you can do to its followers. The more highlighted faction (which is obviously the commercialised one) becomes a standard for everyone to follow and any deviant behaviour is deemed inappropriate and, in some cases, blasphemous. To illustrate, if one condemns this all-in-one Ramadan package, it will undoubtedly be confused with berating the religious speeches delivered on the shows by ulemas and self-proclaimed preachers, hence declaring the questioner an irreverent criticiser. A similar debate can be done for services like online istakhara and exorcism.
There is a high chance of many readers disagreeing to the notion whereby religious programmes cum cooking shows cum quiz competitions cum game shows are condemned as they mar the spirit of Ramadan. Such transmissions are nothing but an easy way for sponsors to advertise their brands at a much lower rate than regular commercials, hence compelling all entertainment channels to compromise as these shows help them in generating revenue worth millions of dollars.
A counter-argument that can be put forth is the occurrence of incidents of mob lynching and other practices of religious intolerance and ostensible behaviour in other countries where such extravagantly tasteless Ramadan transmissions do not exist. The answer is as simple as differences in factors that shape every society. The consequences might be similar but contributors and determinants may differ. Sexual frustration, for instance, results in increasing number of assaults and illegitimate activities but the causes of this frustration differ in every society, social isolation of genders in one while brazen lifestyle in another. Similar is the case with religious frustration. Seeing other people indulged in activities which are forbidden for one faction is one factor while comparing every deed with self-determined standards is another. Whatever the agent be in other societies, the factor of activities done for the sake of pretension does hold true in Pakistan.
Expressing love for an anchor turned scholar turned actor turned politician, answering questions related to Bollywood fraternity, and being made to beg for cars and bikes… what does this crap have anything to do with Ramadan anyway? The Aam khayega incident has not yet shifted to our distant memory. Humiliation of humans by making them beg before the presenter and perform ludicrous tasks was taken notice of by the Islamabad High Court this year, but the verdict’s violation can be seen on all Pakistani entertainment channels every morning and evening with ever-increasing TRPs. This race of achieving highest ratings is what has deteriorated the quality of entertainment and content we present before people. The more unique and imprudent the idea, the more popular it is.
Before thinking how irrational this article is in linking religious extremism to pretentious Ramadan gaming transmissions, just take a moment to form a link between the number of item songs produced by Bollywood industry and the increasing figure of rape cases being recorded in the country. For those who think the last two are not related at all, this article is, indeed, a waste of time. But for those who can establish the link, stop fooling yourself and becoming fools in front of the whole world, for eating a mango from a self-asserted religious scholar for the sake of winning a car is no bigger an achievement than licking someone’s feet.