An open letter to Junaid Jamshed
Dear JJ Sahib,
First of all, condolences for the recent situation you find yourself in. It is most unfortunate that our first correspondence be in times that are possibly troubling for you. With the formalities out of the way, I have a confession to make – I really could not care less about your situation.
Why then am I writing you a letter?
Like others from my generation, I grew up listening to your songs. I met you 15 years ago, backstage after a concert. I was a star-crazed teenager and you were, well, a star. You gave me a hug and laughed about being run over by female fans. Honestly, I never liked your music much, but I did think you were kind of charming.
As I evolved past my adolescent folly, you went from being a fading pop star to a confused preacher to an active member of the ‘Moral police’. We saw you age into the confused egocentric chauvinist you are today. You were neither a star, nor charming, and to my generation, your only reminders were the JJ signboards sprawled around the city advertising your designer lawn. You were irrelevant.
However, in the past week, the media has discovered you again. Your pictures and videos are scattered over the internet. People are writing about you. You are a topic of discussion for anchors and tirades against you are trending vastly. The ‘B’ word has been spoken; and JJ Sahib, this time, you are it.
It is difficult for me to ignore you now, and so, I am writing you a letter to explain why I don’t care what the future holds for you.
You have given me many a reasons to be dismayed. You sit across an actress and slander those from her profession. You instruct men to confine their wives to their houses. You talk about women as being responsible for leading men astray. You suggest that they be kept in check and ‘protected’ from the fickleness that is in their very nature. Despite the absurdity of what you preach, I do not believe that stupidity should be the cause for persecution. It is what you represent that makes me apathetic.
Since 1987, more than 1300 people have been accused of blasphemy; majority of these belong to minority groups. Most cases are met with mob justice. The ones that make it to the courts are looking at decades in prison or death penalties. If politicians raise their voices, they are assassinated. Those who speak in the name of intolerance shout while those who speak in the name of humanity do so in hushed voices, lest they be heard. The liberal polity has taken a step back, whilst the moral police has taken one forward. Intolerance feeds on irrationality, and its counterpart, fear. Bullets kill men, but fear kills the conscience. And it is this fear, JJ Sahib, that those who now rant about you, your colleagues, instil.
You say you made a mistake and you lack knowledge despite 17 years of preaching. Your video might seem quite moving to some. But you see Sir, Aasia Bibi never got to make a video. She never got to ask for forgiveness. She was poor. She was Christian. And she awaits a death sentence.
Had you spoken up for those like her, had you preached tolerance and humanity, had you or your colleagues opened debate about Article 295 C, I would have sympathised with you. But you are a part of the very system that reinforces injustice. You are one of the ‘virtuous’ ones and so you have the privilege to beg for forgiveness. Those who don’t have that luxury continue to burn at the stakes. Why should I then endorse selective justice?
I don’t know where you will go from here. Perhaps this is what it takes for the mighty to see the fallen. Perhaps this is what it takes to not be afraid. Perhaps not.
JJ Sahib, I wonder if you still listen to music. Are you still a Dylan fan? How does it feel then? How does it feel to be on your own?
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.