On ringtones and shaving highly emotional facial hair

Published: July 30, 2011
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When you realise it’s a 20-something whose phone is letting out those vile, slanderous statements about Munni, you have to wonder what was on his mind when he came to the mosque.

The blasphemy law keeps being cited for reasons beyond understanding. While some cases are indeed based on fact (your personal position on the law itself aside), the majority of them have little more than an iota of religion behind them. Recently, some 30 clerics in Lahore wanted a blasphemy case registered against the population welfare department for offending beards.

The moulvis are apparently still recovering from the threat to facial hair put up by a ghastly event in Karachi last year, when the world’s leading razor-blade manufacturer was forced to cancel “Shave it and Break it”, an event aiming to break the record for most people shaving at the same time and place, currently held by our neighbours to the east. In their fatwa, they argued that mass shaving was an affront to Islam and disrespectful to Islamic Law, comparing it to the Jyllands-Posten cartoons controversy.

So portraying the most important human figure in the second largest religion in the world in hugely offensive ways (an effort to offend simply for the sake of being offensive) is equated with a competition encouraging shaving to get into a record book?

There’s a joke in there somewhere but I’d like to keep my head attached to my body.

That aside, instead of lambasting people for portrayals of beards or inexplicable desires to make use of the best a man can get simultaneously, there’s a much more serious issue that continues to go unaddressed.

Cellphones in mosques

Here’s an idea, why not use this clause from section 298 “…Whoever, with the deliberate intention of wounding the religious feelings of any person, utters any word or makes any sound in the hearing of that person…” to throw everyone who is inconsiderate enough to not turn off their cellphones during Jumaa prayers in jail. After all, there’s a more legitimate argument that those people are either suffering from some form of hearing disability, or are more likely to be too self-absorbed to pay heed to recurring warnings prior to the start of prayer and common courtesy in general.

It’s not that I really care about the phone ringing, ignoring a ringing bell is manageable. I do it every morning. The problem is when you start hearing catchy, often inappropriate songs blaring at high volume because the genius doesn’t know phones can be set on silent (here’s a hint, go to profiles). MP3 ringtones have made it worse since now we get to enjoy soul-cleansing lyrics about Munni’s reputation going down the drain.

There was a time when you knew that the rude ringtone man would be some old guy who didn’t know how his phone worked, an unsurprising thing given the relative lack of tech-savvy possessed by older generations. However, when you realise it’s a 20-something whose phone is letting out those vile, slanderous statements about Munni, you have to wonder what was on his mind when he came to the mosque.

It’s not that I doubt his intentions with regard to praying, it’s just that I really want to know what kind of stress the young man is under that he forgot to set his phone to silent before entering the mosque. After all, you have to do it when you walk into class in university and/or work. Oh wait, nobody does that anymore.

Common courtesy is dead, the only reason nobody realised was because we weren’t courteous enough to care. We complain about people talking on phones while driving and race to answer our own when it rings, we complain about speeders and people breaking traffic signals, then do the same ourselves (get off your high horse and admit it). The most amusing (saddening?) might be when we complain about garbage while simultaneously throwing cigarette butts and various forms of paper and packaging out onto the sidewalks and streets.

Can courtesy be revived? Can Munni’s honour be restored?

Maybe, but I can’t comment on that now, I really have to take this call.

Published in The Express Tribune.

Vaqas Asghar

Vaqas Asghar

The author is a senior sub-editor on the Islamabad Desk and also reports on diplomatic events. He tweets as @vasghar (twitter.com/vasghar)

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