Religion is the opium of the people

Recently, a video clip has sparked controversy amongst the Muslims in general and Pakistani Muslims in particular. Junaid Jamshed (JJ), a pop-star turned televangelist, made a few Islamically inappropriate comments about the Mother of Sunni Muslim Ummah: Aishah bint Abi Bakr, who was one of wives of Prophet Muhammad.

JJ, in my opinion, tried to crack a misogynistic joke by sharing an anecdote about Aisha and Muhammad so as to highlight what, according to him, is an essential attribute of being a woman: attention seeking.

JJ said something on the following lines:

Hazrat Aisha (Hazrat being an honorable Arabic title) often used to seek the attention of Prophet Muhammad. She would often pretend to be sick so that Prophet Muhammad may come and tend to her. Once she wrapped her head, lay down and cried in pain. Prophet Muhammad came and inquired as to what happened. She said my head is splitting in two and I am very sick. Prophet Muhammad said: Oh Aisha, if you die in this condition, the Prophet of Allah will say your funeral prayer. Can you imagine how blessed will you be? She instantaneously got up, unwrapped her head and said: You want to me to die, so that you can go to your other wives! This story is proof of the fact that even in the company of the Prophet, women cannot change. Do not try to change women. Women are created from the most crooked portion of the rib. If you try to straighten it, it will break.

Whereas people in the West, including myself, will find this video offensive for the obvious misogynistic attitude of JJ, Muslims are upset for a completely different reason.

Even though I have grown up in Pakistan in a somewhat religious household, I have always struggled to find the emotional connection with and reverential significance of Prophet Muhammad, his kin and companions. However, for Muslims in Pakistan, it is simply inconceivable to talk about the revered personalities of Islam in such a light-hearted manner.

Islamists like Aamir Liaquat Hussain and Syed Muzaffar have gone absolutely berserk.

I will not translate these two videos in English for there is nothing of substance in these speeches. These speeches are, to quote Shakespeare, “full of sound and fury; signifying nothing.

Needless to say, these individuals are full of religious fervor. Their diatribes are emotionally charged and, in these two videos, they have gone as far as abusing the mother of JJ.

Aamir Liaquat Hussain and Syed Muzaffar are a classic example of the growing intolerance and bigotry in Pakistan. They believe that their own parochial interpretation of Islam is the true Islam and anyone that does not conform to their interpretation is a kaafir and subject to punishment according to the injunctions of Islam.

In fact, what JJ did is, for all practical purposes, tantamount to blasphemy. It isn’t surprising that an official case of blasphemy has already been registered against JJ in Pakistan.

Blasphemy is a serious issue in Pakistan for which literally thousands of people have been killed in the past couple of years. One of the recent and most tragic incidents was the attack on a Christian couple last month by a mob of more than 1000 Muslims. The couple was burned alive in a brick kiln and the woman was 4 months pregnant.

Thinking about this event sends a chill down my spine and I just don’t have enough words to express how I feel. Even though JJ has publicly released a video, sincerely apologizing for his action, it remains to be seen if the Muftis, Aalims and the general masses in Pakistan forgive him and embrace him once again.

If anything can be said with certainty, it is that the life of JJ and his family is in danger. He is in UK and has no plans to return to Pakistan.

Even a practicing, main-stream, Sunni Muslim like Junaid Jamshed is not safe in Pakistan any more. This is the sorry state of affairs in Pakistan. Religiosity and fanaticism of the highest order have taken hold of the masses and it is difficult to find sane and liberal voices in the din of Islamist slogans. I seriously hope that passionate inquiry into the very fundamentals of Islam (as I am trying to do through my blogs) leads towards more tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness.

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