Let’s address our own double standards before blaming Ayaan Ali
The University of Karachi (KU) has been home to intellectual discussions and scholarly rendezvous since time immemorial. Academic finesse is ubiquitous here and I have always found myself inspired while walking through its corridors and thinking about all the greats who have walked the same path before me.
The university has had the privilege to host esteemed guests at its various ceremonies – it has seen the likes of Haseena Moin, Ibne Insha, Zia Mohyeddin and many other legends who have come and inspired students with their lectures. Contemporary celebrities like Fawad Khan, Mahira Khan, Kamila Shamsie, Sania Saeed, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and others have also recently shown their support for the institute’s many social causes. On top of this, hoards of foreign social workers, activists, journalists, teachers, scholars, politicians, diplomats and more have graced this university with their presence. And I am proud to say that I have been a witness to their magic in KU.
Therefore, when I first heard the news of Ayyan Ali coming to KU as a guest lecturer for the Department of Public Administration to inaugurate a department-level business venture, I was taken aback. Keeping aside the fact that Ayyan is already underway a case trial for money laundering, what bothered me more was that she has absolutely no experience in terms of public relations, administration and has zero expertise when it comes to fast food venture (which is what the project was about).
So why was she there in the first place?
There are so many people who could have been invited in her place, who would have been more apt, like Muniba Mazari (entrepreneur) or Jehan Ara (online social activist) for example. This was a poor choice and the department should understand that.
However, having said that, I wish to raise another issue which surfaced after this news broke, and that is the over-the-top, blown-out-of-proportion media coverage that was given to this fairly harmless issue. Why our media and our journalist community felt the need to make a mountain out of a mole here is beyond my cunning.
Does Ayyan coming to KU to give a lecture on entrepreneurship merit news bulletins after news bulletins dedicated to its coverage? If no, then why was she plastered on every news channel? Perhaps it is because everyone knows that Ayyan – like many other public figures – sells tremendously and covering her would help media organisation fill the void that they have created by not catering for news-worthy content.
Had it been any other guest coming to KU for a good cause, would our media have covered it like this? Absolutely not. I have seen many causes die down just because they did not get the spotlight they deserved.
Furthermore, I cannot help but see an underlying misogyny in our reprimand for Ayyan. I mean, this is the same university that gave Rehman Malik an honorary doctorate for God-knows what; so why do we feel offended now? And Ayyan isn’t the first controversial guest to come to KU, we have had a number of political and religious outfits who have come to KU to “share their knowledge”, so why the hype now?
My question is, had it been a man in place of her, would we still care about this news as much? Had it been a male politician charged with money laundering, would we still have felt as indignant as we do right now? No, we wouldn’t have. And I know this because our people are more accepting of male criminals than female criminals. The fact that we had one such imprisoned individual as our president for a good eight years testifies our leniency towards the male stratum.
Ayyan has been called all sorts of vile things ever since this news broke out and the vitriol has been exceptionally misogynistic – we all need to accept that. Perhaps before we decide to sit on our high horses and go on a witch hunt for Ayyan, we should address our own double standards and learn to treat everyone equally, irrespective of gender.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.