Because the Ugly Combination Sells

Aug 10th, 2012 | By | Category: Latest, Media Watch, Pakistan

So Ladies and Gentlemen, contrary to all expectations and despite the ever strong social media activism, Veena Malik is back in full swing to help people get over their sins -and hers- and plead and beg to the Almighty Lord to forgive them -and her- for their sins -and hers- for the moment so they can get back to what they were doing as soon as they change the channel.

For some, the whole controversy was a rather new one. The media has crossed all limits. Vulgarity and obscenity is one thing, as it goes, but associating people related with obscenity with issues that we hold sacred, like Ramadan, was just wrong, and out of the blue. It’s just not nice.

While this represents the popular sentiment regarding the issue, I tend to see the whole drama in a rather broader sense. While the whole Veena Malik episode, a populist stunt of sorts, was definitely the last straw, and off limits as it was, fails still to be the problem itself. The problem in my opinion is the Capitalist nature of the media whereas everything that can be sold is sold, and customized to suit the commercial agenda.

This one-dimensional, or profit-dimensional, Capitalist mindset, that sees not the ethics, responsibility, values, and morals, that come in its way, has but one problem; it’s not human. In fact, it’s satanic. Greed is its ultimate value, where all things through which humans derive meaning and purpose are utilized and customized for ends that make mockery of human existence.

So what sells? Ratings!!

Oh, and who knows what gets ratings better than the media itself. Apparently, the screen is not a big fan of serious real-life engagement with the audience. Such an enterprise would first need pretty cutting and editing to get some real applause from the audience. After all, the people don’t want to see things as they actually are, but rather in ways that suit their deepest imaginations and fantasies; that shine and dazzle, and look good to the eye. And what they want to see is on-screen; so what happens off it is none of their business.

Nonetheless, religious broadcasting in our country, especially in times of Ramadan like these, is quite a money making enterprise.  One mustn’t forget, however, that religion is, in fact, serious business; we look at religion for things like social and moral guidance, spiritual emancipation and intellectual enlightenment. More simply, religion is not a consumer product.

But what we see on our television screens is just outright deplorable. Actors and televangelists are busy reading from pre-determined scripts to people expecting a ‘religious transmission’. We know for a fact that some of these performers are completely different people off screen. In fact, when the masks are taken off, no humility is spared. Leaked videos then lead, not only to controversy, but also to a deep sense of shame on our miserable state.  “Online Aalims” with huge followings display how low they can really go; but it doesn’t stop there. They make returns, ever afresh; blaming their previous employers and other conspirators with all the credibility that comes from consecutive calls from Mecca and Madina.

My actual concern is on how Islam is trimmed and framed into a collage for the masses that is highly superficial, populist, symbolic, theatrical and even, hypocritical.   The media knows well how to manipulate popular imagination. Just put the “Aalim” in the grave and make him cry to a live audience; what a show, what a show indeed! But even more, Islam is in the process stripped from its essentially profound nature. On the other hand, cultural aspects associated with religion, like the ‘Kurta Shalwar’, are made essential. Programs devoid of any moral and spiritual nature may easily be Islamized by symbolic gestures alone.

So to be honest, the media crossed the line ages ago when it decided to treat religion only to ends that met its commercial agenda. Today, the media has become a power house. But power necessitates responsibility. While we may criticize the government and the politicians, the bureaucracy, and the military, and not to forget the judiciary and all other stake holders of power for being involved in projects based on personal greed, we must also make the media accountable for its actions. The media isn’t just a bunch of corporations seeking to get a share of the market; the media is a pillar of society that exercises a significant amount of influence on people’s lives. The satanic obsession it may have with money should not result in the mockery of our values and faith. It’s high time to bring it to order and make it realize its boundaries.


Saad Lakhani

About the author

Saad Lakhani is a student of Social Sciences based in Karachi. He tweets @Saadlakhani12

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  1. The hyponitizing of the minds by media is still on, just like when a drinking water is contaminated slow slow, no one knows that’s its being contaminated, just like that media is getting vulgar by vulgar day by day and one day the whole family will be sitting an seeing a vulgar show and no one will feel shame on what they are doing, we have to keep this day away from us by taking such actions, the cable channel owners should be given a clear message as well as the media stake-holders that we don’t want to take that way in which you want us to ride on. Long ago someone asked Mufti Jalalpuri ( who used to give answers in Jang newspaper in “apke masail aur unka hull”) that “is getting guidance from popular Tv shows is right?” , he replied, “when the Tv isn’t right then how come the program from it can give us the guidance”. Right now in the present era when majority does not care about religion , while the followers are still confused who to follow, the perfect way is just to follow the Quran and the Teachings of the Holy Prophet.
    We need to take a pause , and review our path, pray to Allah so that he may guide us to the correct path.

  2. Estoy empezando a conocer el Islam, yo pregunto la vestimenta femenina a la se hace referencia, no està permitido en el Islam? gracias por responder. Paz contigo.

    Translation: I’m starting to learn about Islam, I ask the women’s clothing referred to is not allowed in Islam? thanks for responding. Peace to you.

  3. Hmm..

  4. Indeed a good Article

  5. @ Clara You are right. The clothing of muslim woman has to be modest and within the limits defined for them. The author has criticized the woman shown actually since she recently posed nude in some magazine in India and now is being brought into media again to ask for the pardon of sins. The point of the article was how media can stoop to any levels for its commercial purposes by portraying such a controversial face in a month of great importance for muslims. No morality bounds media but its vested commercial interests.

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