TV shows: It’s not just sex that sells, religion does too

Published: August 1, 2012

By bringing in Pakistan’s most notorious and/or well-known celebrities, networks have tapped into a purification algorithm. PHOTO: FILE

A main feature of Ramazan in Pakistan is the surge of sehr and iftar talk shows and television programmes. Audiences, hungry for food, and thirsty for Da’wah (preaching of Islam), willingly welcome the gimmicky stratagems of the media-walays (media-people) looking to hook and reel us in.

To name just a few, this year’s list of programmes features some of Pakistan’s most jaanay-maanay celebrities (well-known celebrities); a sportsman, an TV host slash regional park morality police, and an actress, model and an item girl, all in one personality (yes I know you know exactly who I speak of).

By bringing in Pakistan’s most notorious and/or well-known celebrities, networks have tapped into a purification algorithm.

By taking one-part Pakistani audience (with a very short-term memory which conveniently forgets all ills committed by many of our media-walays), combining it with the fact that everyone along with their mothers are glued to Ramazan programmes, television networks have stumbled on the holy grail of mass media profitability.

It’s not just sex that sells, folks. Religion, too, at least in Pakistan, sells just as hot and fast.

So, we have our very first award; the ‘best gutting and reeling in of the junta award’, which goes to all the hosts collectively featured in this article, for so cleverly winning the public’s trust by easing into our hearts and minds when we were most vulnerable – fraught with hunger and the desire to forgive.

Next is the Award for the ‘most sensational’, which easily goes to ARY’s ”Sheher-e-Ramazan“ host Maya Khan (alongside Dr Shahid Masood) for their sensational live broadcasting of a Pakistani Hindu’s conversion to Islam. Televised conversions are arguably tasteless, denigrating and possibly forceful; especially when the subject of conversion is already a marginalised, second-class citizen.

But kudos to Maya Khan, for following up so succinctly and splendidly to her role, where she played morality police infamously chasing down young couples in public parks.

The next award (long in title, so bear with us) is the Award for the ‘most well intentioned Ramazan show gone awry’.

And the recipient this year is none other than our cricket hero, Boom Boom Afridi.

Afridi, responding much like Batman to Gotham’s bat call, appears in the homes of those who have invited him (via SMS) to simultaneously have iftari with them and woo the nation in his starched kurta and manicured beard. But Afridi’s good intentions tend to go awry because, usually, his presence tends to turn iftar conversations into a question-and-answer-session on the nation’s favourite past time, cricket!

Despite Afridi’s “Mehman ka Ramazan” and its honourable agenda, the show fails to bring forth any profound human change. The problem that posits itself with Afridi’s presence on the show is not that he is increasing his popularity, by weaving the service of his happy influence through the tissue of these peoples’ lives, but that there are far more reputable scholars capable of educating and enlightening us during this Holy month.

Of course, whilst on the topic of scholars, we reach the Award for the ‘most on point Ramazan programme’ this 2012, for which the top contender is Geo’s “Pehchan Ramzan” host Aamir Liaquat.

Liaquat, always loud on the theme, as per usual, suits up in his signature sherwani, all the while bringing his strained counterfeit of perfect ease – reminding us that he knows the art of selling a show all too well.

As his viewers sit rapt with attention (willingly unconscious of any possible backstage savagery), Liaquat relentlessly speaks of many things; the sins that darken our times, the stories of the first Muslims who spread Islam with much persistence and inveteracy, and the singular need of acquiring Islamic knowledge.

Say what you want of Liaquat’s prior discrepancies, when it comes to putting on a remarkable religious talk show, he, with his firmness of purpose and vigour of action, remains the nation’s favourite poster-boy of all things deen (religious).

Vigour of action also, incidentally, brings us to our last award, an honorary mention for the little show that once could’ve been but is no more.  Hero TV, not one to play on small, passive beliefs decided to jump into the market of Ramazan talk shows with quite an active weapon.

A highly-circulated preview of Astaghfaar with the oft-celebrity, and always scandalous Veena Malik, led to heated debate and social media petitioning. The consequence of this angry backlash? A premature cancelling of the show before it aired (cue the tears of many adolescent males).

But all was not in vain because the 45 second, teary soliloquy laced with thought provoking innuendo continues to steadily climb in YouTube hits world over.

Main karoon gee…aap ke saath…pooray Ramazan …” 

(I will do… with you… the whole of Ramazan…)

Read more by Maria here or follow her on Twitter @mariakari1414

Maria Kari

Maria Kari

A freelance writer and journalist currently based in Vancouver, BC. She writes on South Asian and Middle Eastern politics, portrayals of Islam in the West and the occasional preoccupation with pop culture faddism and tweets at @mariakari1414.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Parvez

    …….and Mari Kari you certainly deserve an award for this………….but I think I’ll leave it there.Recommend

  • AM

    Before all your critics jump in, and my post gets lost in the hate, one word ‘AWESOME’! Esp the ending.Recommend

  • Faisal

    Utter Crap !!! the title of this blog is nonsense !!! where r u going ET ??Recommend

  • Ali

    Pseudo Liberals will go against fake religious anchors?(except Afridi). They will bash Relgion & conservatives just for a month?

    We don’t need fake religious ppl in the media but real ones and for the whole year. These are better of that 24/7 of nudity/vulgarity/immorality/immodesty being promoted which is an influence of Bollywood/hollywood/western culture. Recommend

  • http://pakistani-revival.blogspot.com Ovais

    aap kay aur aap kay saath :p … its sad to see how this liberal media makes a joke of ramadan .. its better to have sahir lodhi dancing than all of this .. .oh i forgot sahir lodhi doesnt do mujra in ramazan my bad Recommend

  • Fahad Raza

    Why wouldn’t it sell in Ramadan… its cheaper than bananas Recommend

  • Awans

    This Derren Brown’s show tells it all that why Many many people become a fan of religious guys. Even that that show is about Miracles in Christianity but same holds true that why people like Aamir Liaquat many are considered Good show host because he can Captivate the Audience and that is how Human emotions work.
    When you sell religion in a Hypnotic manner then Religion becomes a good commodity to earn money.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYjgeayfYPI&feature=relatedRecommend

  • VivaLaRevolution

    The “media waley” will show what the people want to see. People want to see these hosts run around the sets in their ridiculous costumes and that is what they will show.Recommend

  • Kanwal

    Problem is, the media is ready to sell all that it can. Otherwise, no one in their right mind would ve ever picked Pious Auntie Maya Khan for a show after her antics less than a year ago. And imagine how we never can have enough of Aamir Liaquat. LolRecommend

  • http://www.shafiqpenworks.blogspot.com Shafiq

    @ Author:
    Nicely composed article, but what I personally feel that today people irrespective of class, education and religious background do not need all this sarcasm because they want sensation and controversy.

    Dont you think today it is all about selling things and making profits and generating revenues? After all Media needs TRP, world proven and ghhissa pitta fact. Channels do what they want to do to earn viewership. There are better women available in Media who can present a show in much sensible manner – but they wont bring the “Hype” for the male audience.

    Sorry to say but we (aam janta / new age Pakistanis) believe that Aamir Liaquat is the best person to preach Islam these days! Yet we also know his past! And I suppose Veena should also have given a chance… Even in Ramazan Entertainment is all A PAKISTANI want nowadays.Recommend

  • Sane

    We have immature media. Electronic media badly lacks good people on almost all subjects. So having no option they choose Maya Khan, Shahid Masood, Amir Liaquat, Shahid Afridi and ilk of such people. Same is in sports and other subjects. Anyways have a beard (could be french cut also), wear a designer sherwani and rosary (Tasbih) in hand, here is a perfect Muslim scholar to give sermons on TV Channels. Sometimes three piece designer suit also works…..look at Babar Awan (Ex. Doctor & Minister). What a mockery?!!!Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/495/m-asghar-malik/ Asghar Malik

    Sadly it is true here in Pakistan. Anyways you presented this issue lightly that is really good thing in your blog. Recommend

  • sherry

    well written, nice pattern Recommend

  • Neha

    Bul Bullay ftw!Recommend

  • http://tinyurl.com/taimoor Taimoor

    so beautifully been put in words… yeah it does…Recommend

  • Despite the fact that I’m an atheist, the commercialization of religion disgusts me.Recommend

  • Zubair

    Time for the media to do their own astaghfaar. Hilarious article!Recommend

  • Amir

    It’s not as though religion has not been commercialized before. Singers have been doing it for ages.. Arif Lohar’s ‘jugni ji’ song that got 9 million views on YouTube could constitute as ‘commercialization’ of religion. Selling (and buying) jewelry with ‘Allah’ and ‘Mohammed’ carved in gold can be considered ‘commercializion’ of religion. Decorating our homes with images of Makkah… Even Iftar specials by restaurants should constitute as ‘commercialization’ of religion.

    When we become offended and scandalized by the so-called ‘commercialization’ of religion or it’s use as a medium of entertainment, we ourselves act like the fundos we often criticize. No one is obligated to watch these Ramadan shows. Why should religion be above being used for entertainment anyway? Politics, sex, love,, culture, history, nationality etc. are all commercialized. Why does religion warrant an exception?Recommend

  • Jawad

    feels enlightened…Recommend

  • HasBeen

    Nice One Maria, it was genuinely funny, ‘Mein Keroon Gi Poray Ramzan… App ke Saath’ Ms. Malik #whattaylegendRecommend

  • http://somereasonsomerhyme.blogspot.com TM

    i dont agree with the Amir Liaqat part…i do think the Ramadan transmission on HUM TV is better. It’s not over exaggerated or glamorized like the other channels. It’s quite simple and focuses on the main issues that people have and in clearing out any uncertainties that ppl may have regarding Ramadan and other Islamic matters. It is not easy to look at Amir Liaqat after watching all those youtube videos…otherwise…a good read :)Recommend

  • Princess lovely

    Aamir bhai zindabad!!Recommend

  • zainab

    It is sad to see that we rise up to remove these hosts but manage to stay SILENT or rather call them to appriciate on the fun inactment in this holy month forgetting what they had done previously.Recommend

  • Big Rizvi

    My God! Religon sells like hotdogs in this country. Maybe this could be a gold mine for me… Nah, just kidding. I do not wish to make money from something God gave us to follow and keep personal. Welcome to physcological Jihad, fellas. Where we have Ramazan themed ads, shows and sets ready and waiting RIGHT before the ‘holy’ month has even started as if it were some war stockpile.Recommend

  • Farrukh Malik

    The point is right media will sell anything it can they are selling religion soon they will be selling their families too, it has started in western and indian media and soon it will come here too, but the main point is or I must say the FACT is that if you are a good Muslim you wont get a single % of inspiration from any of these not even from Shahid Afridi and who said Shahid Afridi is a perfect Muslim to teach Islam, bhaee they all are earning millions. So try to be a good Muslim and this goodness will automatically keep you away from these frauds, people who never learn are the people who still follow Aamir Liaqat after seeing his video the truth about him. So we have to see that we must become a good Muslim.Recommend

  • ayesha Eijaz

    i am fail to understand that why can not live and do live others the way he or she wish to …. and most importend thing who the hall we are who says ABOUT VEENA in hero tv ” keya Khuda veena kay gandey kamoo ko maaf karey ga .. veena ko haq hay mafi ki? ” i m really amized yaar ….. Allah ko sab ni jaan dayni hay we all dont have right and we all dont know who is right and who is wrong. WAKEUP PAKISTAN Recommend

  • aadil

    awesomeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Recommend

  • Opinion Maker

    GEO network must b ashamed of using the name of religion in order to boost up their business by using bloody Amir Liaquat……..resenting the feelings and sentiments of masses of PakistanRecommend

  • Khalid

    The best Ramadan show, is no doubt, Hum TV’s “Noor-E-Ramzan” Recommend

  • Sane

    @ayesha Eijaz:

    Oh!! I wake-up.Recommend