Why Controversy over Maulana Jameel’s Remarks?


                                                              Sajjad Shaukat

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan on April 23, this year led a long telethon, televised live on TV channels, to mobilise funds from the people at large to help the deserving persons affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking on the event, the Premier Imran appealed to the people to give maximum funds for the “Ehsaas Programme.”

The transmission was joined by news anchors representing partnering media groups, including Hamid Mir (Geo), Kashif Abbasi (ARY News), Nadeem Malik (Samaa News), Kamran Shahid (Dunya News), Sami Ibrahim (Bol News), Shiffa Yousfzai (Hum News), Muniba Mazari (PTV News), Mansoor Khan (Express News) and Mohammad Malick (92 News).

The broadcast concluded with the special prayer (dua) by the renowned religious scholar Maulana Taiq Jameel, who in light of the coronavirus otbreak advised the people to recite the supplications like Ayat-e-Kareema to seek Allah Almighty’s forgiveness and blessings in the distressing situation. While pointing out various un-Islamic practices, Maulana Jameel said that that Pakistani TV channels, like foreign media, told lies and did not present the truth— “This is not just restricted to Pakistani media. Foreign media are also liars”, as he claimed on the whole. In the dua, the Maulana also spoke about a large number of women who “were often scantily dressed”. 

As regard women’s’ dress, we should leave it to public to decide either it is Islamic or un-Islamic practice.

Notably, a renowned newspaper wrote: “Among those who reacted strongly to Maulana Tariq’s remarks was prominent anchorperson Hamid Mir, who said in a tweet that giving such generalised statements about media houses was an irresponsible act”.

However, speaking to a private TV channel on April 24, 2020 during a live call in Muhammad Maalik’s TV show, where Hamid Mir was also present, Maulana Tariq Jameel apologised publicly to the journalist fraternity regarding his remarks about media.

Nevertheless, controversy about Maulana Tariq’s prayer statement was deliberately created or what is the truth behind, which needs analysis.

In this regard, thousands of supporters of Maulana Tariq Jameel have stormed social media and let it known that they are unhappy with how the cleric has been treated. One of Twitter’s top trends #HamidMirMafiMango sees people demanding an apology from Hamid Mir. Other than that, there has also been a call for a boycott of Hamid Mir-not watching his show.

One of his supporters wrote on the Twitter, “He [Maulana Tariq] has exposed the hypocrisy of Media.”

Another follower of the Maulana tweeted, “Blackmailers liars media blackmailed molana sahab as he spoke Truth about them”.

In this respect, Quoting Daily Net PK Today, Website Parhlo Com said: “Hamid Mir’s Old Interview Proves Maulana Tariq Jameel was right about media lying…After the controversial exchange of narratives between representatives of Pakistani media and a religious cleric, the internet is still talking about. Yes, we’re talking about Hamid Mir’s forceful spat with Maulana Tariq Jameel….One of the biggest critics of Maulana’s remarks was veteran journalist Hamid Mir. He had urged the Maulana to reply and had made harsh remarks on his prayer speech…an old interview of Hamid Mir has now gone viral. In the video, while speaking to host Nawazish Ali, Hamid Mir’s remarks seem to be exactly the same as Maulana Tariq Jameel. Upon being asked if the Pakistani media was truthful, this is what Hamid Mir said on air. “If we speak the truth, everything will catch fire. In my opinion, the Pakistani media doesn’t even tell 10% of the real truth…This automatically means that the other 90% of the time, the Pakistani media is lying. These were Hamid Mir’s own words for his profession. So, isn’t this exactly what Maulana Tariq Jameel said?…Maulana’s supporters have been demanding an apology from Hamdi Mir…This viral video is attracting a lot of attention and people have been calling out Hamid Mir for his blatant hypocrisy in this regard”.

Nonetheless, the above mentioned facts show that religious scholar Maulana Tariq Jamil was forced to apologise for highlighting a mere fact that media spreads false/fake news, which is so unfortunate. This is bias of the highest degree when senior media anchor like Hamid Mir asks Maulana Tariq Jamil to apologise for speaking simply the truth.

It is mentionable that in Pakistan, every media organization works in accordance with its policy, and it would always design content accordance to the policy at hand. Even prominent journalists have stated on many occasions that media has been sold to the highest bidder throughout history and spreading disinformation is part of media designs and tactics.

It is, however, even more unfortunate that religious community who usually are united in defending each other, did not even protested Hamid Mir’s approach and other’s accusations made by so-called liberal brigade. Hamid Mir and the likes’ approach have displayed this highest degree of disrespect of the well-reputed and respectable religious figure of the country.

It noteworthy  that in the western countries  media have been playing a key role by educating and guiding the people regarding various developments and issues which have been taking place on global and regional level. Despite it, taking advantage of the freedom of expression, in the west, newspapers and TV channels employ various tactics like sensationalism, exaggeration and distortion of facts to attract the maximum readers and viewers for financial gains in the era of competition, while consensus developed among responsible journalists and media owners around the world that it is against the moral codes of journalism. Therefore, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) launched an Ethical Journalism Initiative in 2008.

Unfortunately, freedom of expression in Pakistan appears to have been totally misused due to the uncompromising media. In this connection, without taking cognizance of its negative effects on the people, a majority of the TV channels and associated burgeoning business interests led to coin unique methods of generating market competition so as to attract viewership and control financial shares.

While presenting little or no legitimate well-researched news items, Pakistan’s TV channels, exploit, distort and exaggerate the news to create sensations and attract viewers in order to become more popular with the sole aim to advance their financial gains. Based upon opinion-masquerading as objective fact, most of the country’s media anchors mislead and excite public opinion. They do not indicate what the people need, but show what the people want, thus have stunning impact of psychological shock.

Thus, ignoring the moral codes of journalism, particularly some famous media analysts and anchors have adopted negative techniques and unscrupulous practices in their coverage of an event or issue in their talk shows.

Resultantly, freedom of expression is getting repressed by media itself, as few anchors and media owners have monopolized the media market and have formed powerful syndicates to support each other, while silencing the voice of the dissents by sparing no space for impartial and independent expression.

No doubt, mistakes have been committed by everyone in the past. But, during debate, instead of manipulation, Paksitan’s media and their commentators should emphasize the solution of the various crises which the country is facing in wake of the outbreak of the COVID-19.

Anyhow, media must follow the real principles of journalism by educating and guiding the people towards right direction through credible and true information. They should avoid developing stereotypes among the people by displaying unbiased news and comments in wake of war against terrorism and especially coronavirus pandemic.