Losing our religion one Ramazan transmission at a time

Published: July 20, 2014
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These insane quizzes are not what Ramazan stands for. This beautiful month calls for sharing and feeling for others, not answering nonsensical questions and winning material products.

These insane quizzes are not what Ramazan stands for. This beautiful month calls for sharing and feeling for others, not answering nonsensical questions and winning material products. These insane quizzes are not what Ramazan stands for. This beautiful month calls for sharing and feeling for others, not answering nonsensical questions and winning material products.

While browsing through channels after iftar yesterday, I realised that my TV screen had been taken over by multiple Ramazan transmissions airing on different (read: every) channel. Although the ‘shows’ have been airing questionable content for some time now, this year they seemed to have taken it up a notch.

Previously, such transmissions comprised of learned religious scholars who would discuss Islamic issues and answer audience questions pertaining to religious teaching. This would be followed by a recitation of a naat or a dua, and the transmission would be over by iftar time.

No shenanigans, no games, no quizzes – a simple programme on religion.

Now, some might argue that these shows were too plain, boring and lacked excitement but I believe the content back then was much classier and more fit for our religion than the ‘game shows’ we have started to indulge in today.

Ramazan shows today provide very little knowledge of anything, let alone religion, and there is no inspiration that can be drawn to douse our curiosity regarding religion. In fact, the effect is quite the opposite. These transmissions inspire crudeness, an extreme level of greed and lack of empathy.

Show hosts are seen making fun of people, exhibiting uncultured humour and making personal comments – all in such bad taste – and all in the name of Ramazan! Why? I feel like I am watching some backwards, cheesy theatre show or movie rather than a religious programme.

A typical Ramazan transmission today begins with a discussion between a deranged host and a bunch of maulvis, who are clad in colourfully embroidered kurtas. Discussions on these shows amount, to little or, no religious knowledge being dispersed to the audience and before you know it, the host eagerly moves towards the ‘fun and games’ segment.

These transmissions start before iftar, continue during and go on way past iftar time! But it is after iftar that the quiz-show begins (a modern day version of Neelam Ghar but is not nearly as good). Here I must say that at this point along with the hosts, even the audience exhibits extremely uncouth behaviour. To win a mobile phone or a designer lawn dress, the men and women both try to up the other in acting in the most ridiculous manner possible; self-respect, dignity, modesty, humbleness, and all other Islamic teachings, go out the window when it comes to winning a mere bottle of Rooh Afza.

In pursuit of these little ‘gifts’ people are willing to go to any length and in doing so exhibit to the world just how entertainment starved and greedy we can become. We are willing to do anything and everything to win, even if that means stuffing our faces with mangoes, standing on one leg or hanging from a monkey bar – we will do it all. On national television might I add.

Where has the spirit of Ramazan gone?

These insane quizzes are not what Ramazan stands for. This beautiful month calls for sharing and feeling for others, not answering nonsensical questions and winning material products. Why can’t sponsors and channels donate their gifts and money to orphanages and hospitals or NGOs and have live shows with them?

The companies that sponsor these shows are at fault as well. I understand that advertising and marketing is important for any business but why can’t they think of other creative and more socially responsible ways to make their brands standout?

I agree that there are very limited entertainment avenues for us, and middle-income groups in particular, but there can be other ways to make TV shows more appealing and tasteful. Or in the very least, the producers of these shows could make sure that the content is less repulsive.

It is the responsibility of TV channels and multinational companies to put their efforts and money together and come up with creative, quality content – content that educates the masses, not stuns them back into ignorance.

We have seen many well thought-out CSR campaigns before, that have proven to be very effective for the goodwill image of a company. We have also come across many quality shows that interact with the public in a constructive manner.

Why can’t we make TV shows like The Oprah Winfery Show or like Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate from across the border? We have had good television shows even in Pakistan – the Ariel Maa show being one of them and this too was powered by an FMCG company. Why can’t all our programmes be like this one? These shows have also worked wonders for their sponsors; they have generated very high viewership, TRPs and established credibility without robbing the audience of its morals. More than anything else they have made a difference in people’s lives and have changed mindsets.

In a society like ours, our media enjoys great power and shape our society’s moral fabric. Instead of producing mediocre, run-off-the-mill TV shows, our media industry must assume the role of a mature and responsible medium and work for, both, the entertainment and education of our society. We, the audience, do not want to be shamed any more.

Sameea Zafar

Sameea Zafar

Sameea likes to blog about her favourite things to do, wear and eat in the city. She tweets as @SameeaZafar (twitter.com/SameeaZafar)

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