Sunday, 7 December 2014

Junaid Jamshaid – when misogyny is preached

If music is celebrated as having a soul, giving wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gayety to life, it is also irredeemably disapproved as fitna by many Muslims who believe that its promulgation misleads from Allah’s path. The profession of music and creating songs is perceived as a destroyer of morals and according to the Islamic scholar Imaam Shaafi the one who creates music ‘is an incompetent fool whose testimony is to be rejected.’ Such strong opposition is always a matter of debate and the ones who are adherent to follow Islam in the original form in order to uphold injunction that no invention can be allowed in Islamic laws, will always challenge perception that creativity, music and art are expression of humanity.

In the early nineties no one knew how best to view the emergence of a boy band, one of its kind in Pakistan. Five young men came on the television with version of pop songs in Urdu which instantly revived the interest in listening to local music. In a country where art and culture is always sliced, chopped and discarded away as irrelevant to national interests, the opposition against the group Vital Signs was huge. It was distraction, waste of time and very risky to promote the band which has learned nothing from the traditions of classical Urdu singing, that is a blend of classical instruments, poetry and highly rehearsed form of singing. But the group also gained wide acclaim from the youth and young people because of their popular lyrics, catchy tunes and persona of group members who were far better placed than the middle aged pop singers of the eighties.

Pinups, posters and teen magazines circulated in my college grounds, all containing images, gossip and news of the five group members known as, Junaid Jamshed, Rohail Hyatt, Shahzad Hasan and Nusrat Hussain. These guys became heartthrobs who mesmerized girls because of their talents and looks. Tickets to their concerts in those days cost a bombshell and as they were held in halls of five star hotels. With some deliberation the college council decided to approach the principal with the idea of arranging for Vital Signs to come and sing in the college hall. While the decision was being considered by the principal, the delay of the outcome worried us. There will be lots of people who would raise objections. Finally a day arrived when the whole college was summoned to the hall. The principal, a woman of steely frame of mind, in a stern and solemn voice explained to us the background of the rumours and reasons for the delay. A delegation of clerics along with the local imam met the principal and voiced their concerns for inviting over a boy band to perform in a college for girls. They issued a strong warning to the principal that she would be promoting sexual promiscuity among girls by inviting the band and everything she was doing was going against the teachings of Islam. In a milieu where opinions sway between common sense and illogic, the individuals who take right actions are the real gems. The principal decided to forgo all objections which were raised by the clerics and the concert was to go ahead as planned. We were made to promise that at no time during the concert we would get up from our seats, scream and shout in order to make the whole idea of having the concert in the college acceptable. The concert did take place. We got to see the group, heard their songs and enjoyed the scenario of being part of an entertainment where enjoyment matters.

Vital Signs went from strength to strength. Every album they produced was a bestseller. The quality of their songs matched by their music videos pioneered the interest in creating music for young people in Pakistan. But these days the lead singer Junaid Jamshed does not agree with these views! Junaid Jamshed now appears on the telly screens in religious talk shows expressing his regret that his interest in music led him to become a pop idol. He is keen to let the viewers know of the story of his transformation from pop idol to a religious redeemer. He is at ease to express his dislike for girls who screamed and shouted with excitement when he was a pop idol and he believes it is objectionable for women to drive altogether.

His religiosity tainted with misogynistic traits has rendered no services to his fellow countrymen and yet his fame has soared. By appealing to the sentiments of adopting austerity and humility as derived from the strict interpretation of Quran and Sunnah he has managed to remain in the limelight. The same kind of fame is not enjoyed, these days by other members of the Vital Sign group.

Junaid Jamshed appeals to those who are fettered in their sense of right and wrong and have taken to believe that matters can be resolved by the direct intervention of religion in daily matters. Even though the idea of bludgeoning opinions with the charge of blasphemy is abhorrent, I can’t help noticing that once again Junaid Jamshed’s misogynistic psyche is not questioned by his countrymen. Time and again he has considered women incapable of making sound decisions and judgements.

Age old views made fourteen hundred years ago in the land of Arabia are the bases for the rule of law for many in Muslim societies. And for as long as men like Junaid Jamshed are supported and admired for their ignorance in discriminating women, the suffering and injustice in the Muslim world will not end.

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