RIP Junaid Jamshed: A Voice Like No Other

Source: Dawn

Source: Dawn

Who would have thought that on a day like any other, we would hear something as dreadful as this about Junaid Jamshed?

PIA flight PK-661 crashed near Havelian on its way from Chitral to Islamabad on December 8. To the nation’s shock, Junaid Jamshed, and his wife were in the ill-fated ATR, along with around 46 others. Whether PIA knew about the fatal faults in the plane is now a matter of speculation.

Plane crashes are absolutely terrible. Imagine yourself in one. I often do.

The pain, shock, and horror of these accidents somehow have a far greater amplified effect than most other ones. And especially if you happen to know someone in them, and especially if there is a celebrity. Junaid Jamshed, in my opinion, has a national hero status for his contribution over the years. But more than anyone else, you have to think of his children. You can only imagine what they would be going through. Still, the entire nation shares their burden of grief.

I can’t say I was his biggest fan, but I always admired him. And of course, his music did have an impact on me growing up, like the rest of my generation.

Even if we want to, there is no way we can ever ignore the impression his patriotic song “Dil Dil Pakistan” had on us as a nation. Especially to people like me who were growing up in the 90s. The images of that song deeply imprinted on our minds. Even a few notes enough to stir a euphoric sense of freedom and patriotism, that are otherwise clearly absent.

With Shoaib Mansoor - Source: Dawn

With Shoaib Mansoor – Source: Dawn

Source: pakteahouse.net

With Maulana Tariq Jameel – Source: pakteahouse.net

The two highly contrasting parts of Junaid Jamshed’s life could be reflected by the two highly contrasting mentors that inspired them. His highly celebrated pop career inspired by PTV producer Shoaib Mansoor, who created the concept behind most of the songs of Vital Signs, his band that included Shahi Hassan and Rohail Hyatt.

As a recent DW piece pointed out, his transition personified the contradictions any, if not most, Pakistanis have to wrestle with all their lives.

Even though I do not want to mar the respect for the tragedy of his death by bringing up his recent comments about women, but I am probably going to find no other occasion to talk about it. But it is safe to say that he eventually betrayed his through his misogynistic comments, albeit in the form of the traditional criticism of Ayesha, the Prophet’s wife, or draconian decrees of mullahs inspired by Saudi Arabia.

Even in his worse preaching days, I never disliked him because I knew he meant well. His views on women had become misguided, if they were not already, but were more reflective of the religious ideology he had adopted than anything else. Because in his latter years, all he had become was a mouthpiece for it. And if he indeed had such views about women, it made him come out with them.

Though after a while, it became hard to apologize for what his views had become, for the decent human being that he was. Still, what are you to do if his faith required those views? But it only goes to show what a certain type of religiosity does to a pop icon such as Junaid Jamshed, or to any person anyway.

From a pop icon to a controversial preacher, to someone who was selling high-end designer clothing and fashion accessories, Junaid Jamshed attracted as much flak as he did love. But amid all this, most people fail to see that he was a very misunderstood person in the middle of his confusing worldview.

Of course, it is hard and unfair to make a comment about it, but more than anything else, it seems that Junaid Jamshed wanted to reach out and help. Tried being useful in whatever way he could and sometimes went too far with his passion. And even if craving spotlight would have been a factor, it was his desire to reach out and contribute to the society that defined his celebrity. As fans, there is probably not much we could have asked for.

But one point that hardly anyone would dispute is that he was a voice like no other.

Let’s mourn him. Let’s celebrate him.

Rest in peace.

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Let’s Do This More Often

Source: Pakistan Today

Source: Pakistan Today

So how often do we see clerics accused of blasphemy, and not some poor Christian peasant who would almost surely be attacked for the crime.

A crime without a victim, of course.

But let’s take the case of our pop singer turned hymn-singing amateur Islamic scholar Junaid Jamshed.

I really want to sympathize with Junaid Jamshed over here, but cannot bring myself to. You know, eventually you would have no choice but to defend him against the blasphemy case. But not without the frustration, or satisfaction, that the devil is caught in his own trap.

It is the same religious scholars who have conditioned people like Pavlov dogs to outrage at the remotest imagination of what could be termed as a blasphemy. With the achievement of a Muslim majority humanitarian utopia, it is ensured that the entertainment for such public outrage is mostly reserved for the dominant faith. Not that better things are expected from the minority faiths, believe me, who want their own versions of this madness.

But what makes you want to walk away from supporting Junaid Jamshed is his utter hatred of women. The part of his lecture for which he was accused of blasphemy was actually about demonizing women. And like most of our misogynistic Shia and Sunni scholars, his favorite target was Prophet’s wife Ayesha as well.

So, the real blasphemy that Junaid Jamshed has committed is against women. But unlike his fellow overzealous brothers in faith, they could actually forgive him.

He apologized for his alleged blasphemy. But would Junaid Jamshed repent over how he insulted women? Instead he is worried about saving his life from the very crowd in which he enjoyed mixing.

I bet a part of him would be regretting becoming an Islamic scholar.

So what happens in this case? When someone influential such as Junaid Jamshed is accused of blasphemy.

Well, since registration of cases of blasphemy has become the standard operating procedure for settling disagreements, there is nothing surprising about it. As a matter of fact, just mentioning something about religion can actually qualify you for the honors.

Speaking of which, this piece is not about religion.

It is strictly about politics. It’s always about politics.

It’s about politics, because the powerful and the influential can always get away with accusations. And the likes of the Christian couple that was burned alive in Kot Radha Kishan cannot.

This is just proof that a religious and Islamic system of government is not safe for Muslims, let alone the non-Muslim minority subjects living under its influence. This busts the myth that the rules of this religious system of governance guarantees safety for everyone.

So there is no wonder why the likes of Junaid Jamshed have to go in hiding in secular countries such as Britain. But they don’t think for a moment about people who cannot escape an Islamic Republic.

This is the sort of hypocrisy which makes Pakistani Muslims call for a theocratic state at home but demand secularism in non-Muslim majority countries such as India, so that the Muslims there would feel safe from Hindu oppression. How convenient.

This is precisely why an objective and universally acceptable secular social contract is needed.

And everyone who thinks that blasphemy law should stay is a part of the problem. They are a part of the problem because they block every possibility of using logic and reason when the word religion is mentioned. And by doing so, they are indirectly jeopardizing lives.

But then again, I must confess, there must be some sort of protection for the sacred.

But just to give them a treatment of their medicine, let us accuse mainstream Islamic scholars and politicians of blasphemy more often.

Until they are forced to consider supporting repealing the blasphemy law.

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Note: A toned down version of this post was published in The Nation blog here.