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Exposing Real Faces

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On this 14th of August, most Pakistanis did two things on facebook; first they wished everyone a happy independence day, and after that, they shared a video titled: “The real face of Dr. Amir Liaquat”. This video, that went viral in hours, shows a very “informal” side to Pakistan’s favorite televangelist. But apparently Dr Sahib’s joyful cussing and swearing didn’t go well with his audience, as most vented out their anger by using swear words that were even worse than the ones used in the video.

But the question is, was it really that bad? I mean let’s face it, the “street language” used by Dr. Sahib, is very common in the streets of Pakistan and even in its educational institutes. One hears the same cuss words, if not worse, in informal settings; whether it’s a dhabba or a college cafeteria, and just like Dr. Liaquat the same people would not repeat them on camera or in a more formal setting. In my opinion, this “real face” of Amir Liaquat is not that different from that of the average Pakistani.

But Dr. Liaquat does have another side, a side worthy of criticism, disgust and indignation, one that he showed to a literally deadly effect, but amazingly that showing went somewhat “unnoticed”. Dedicating the Alim Online on the 7th of September 2008  to the issue of Khatam I Nabuwat (finality of the Prophethood), Dr. Liaquat and his guests launched an attack on the faith of the Ahmadiyya Community. The discussion focused on the shortcomings of the Ahmadi beliefs, and included a series of personal attacks on the Prophet of the Ahmadis. The legitimacy of such criticism could be defended under “freedom of speech”, but then according to Dr. Liaquat et al such freedoms do not exist; as in matters of religion, there is no distinction between hate speech and criticism/banter.

In any case, bigotry was pretty low down the list of flaws on that day, as the discussion moved into the zone of internationally defined hate speech; with Dr. Liaquat legitimizing a massacre of the Ahmadis, while his guests, representing both the Sunni as well as the Shia sects, echoing his views. Within days, two members of the Ahmadiya community were assassinated, for which Dr. Liaquat was blamed not only by the aggrieved but also by his former political party i.e. the MQM.

But, what was even more disturbing than the vitriol of Dr. Liaquat was the indifference or for that matter the acceptance that he got from his audience. Hats off to the MQM for distancing itself from him, but that was about it. In the aftermath of the show, Dr Liaquat’s career went from strength to strength; forget about sponsors distancing themselves, in its stead he recently got signed up as the head of a TV channel. Needless to say, his corporate acceptance which is based on his ability to generate revenues, is a reflection of his social acceptance; an acceptance that is conditional on a seemingly twisted and biased sense of morality.

Unlike the allegations of incitement to murder, Dr. Liaquat was very quick to respond to the allegations of “swearing and clapping”. Interestingly, his absolute denial is qualified with a reference to his past “contribution” to the cause of Khatam I Nabuwat.

On an unbiased scale of morality; the crime of “incitement to murder” would far outweigh “clapping and swearing”. It seems that by generating these paradoxical responses, Dr. Liaquat has not only exposed his own real face, but that of our society as well.

Appeared in Pakistan Today on the 19th of August 2011

Written by Imran Khan

August 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm

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