When ‘Islamic’ televangelist, Aamir Liaquat, traveled to Saudi Arabia to perform (his umpteenth) Hajj late last year, intelligent, sensitive and rational Pakistanis let out a sigh of relief.
The more mischievous ones among us even prayed to the Almighty to let the Saudis fall in love with this eminent ‘Islamic scholar’ and fund his outlandish theories. The whole idea behind this sincere pray was for Liaquat to stay put in Saudia Arabia playing the Saudi faith’s Dr. Frankenstein (remember Dr. Maurice Bucaille?), leaving television viewers in Pakistan ever so grateful to the Saudis for keeping him there, away from the corruptions and temptations of Pakistan.
But, alas, all hopes have been dashed as Liaquat has been brought back for yet another invigorating season of ‘Alim Online.’ This despite the fact that in 2008, he was accused of instigating violence against the Ahmadiyya community through his highly enlightening show, and is also known for holding some truly audacious views about Islam, society, and politics in Pakistan.
Well, actually, such men (and some women), have ironically proven to be real attractions for multinationals wanting to advertise their brands during the most foolhardy shows, so one can understand private television channels’ unflinching obsession with these characters.
That said, this article will focus on a 10-minute section of Liaqaut’s show that aired on January 29 this year. After announcing his return to the mini-screen (so much for our prayers), Liaquat launches into a discussion on our unfortunate cricket team that has recently turned suffering defeat into an unparalleled art, nay, a fascinating science.
For a second I thought he would start cursing the fact that there are still not enough Tableeghis in the team for it to start winning again. But Liaquat, being the bolt he is, said this instead: “Our team has been losing a lot lately. So, a viewer called me and said, Liaquat bhai, do mention the fact that ever since Pakistani cricketers started wearing shoes with green soles, they have started to lose!”
Yup, you read that right. Liaquat bhai then went on to endorse this brilliant insight by suggesting that green soles are the culprit because green is the colour of Islam and also of our national flag.
Marvelous. This should also mean that the Pakistan team should stop playing on grass, and the hockey team should stop dribbling and running across green AstroTurf as well?
Conscious of the fact that maybe even the biggest religious nutcase will have some trouble swallowing this belligerent and breathtaking proclamation, Liaquat then quickly adds that this was a matter of faith and not aqal (reason). In fact, he said that such talk has to do with belief and would not be understood by the ‘worshippers of reason’ (aqal kay poojney walley).
So, on a mainstream Pakistani TV channel, which has recently made it a point to become the leading upholder of a corruption-less society, we get to hear about a very green reason behind Pakistan’s defeat in Australia. More than that, in a country with less than a 50 per cent literacy rate, we also get to hear how useless and sinful things like logic, reason, and intellectuality really are for the Muslims. Bravo.
Anyway, in that glorious 10-minute span, Liaquat then moved on to comment on some international politics. He talks about the recent murder of an Iranian nuclear scientist, and asks our own bomb daddy, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan, to watch his back.
Interestingly, he also alludes to the fact that Dr. Khan is a regular viewer of his show. If so, then I have a question. Was it aqal that Dr. Khan used to make the bomb, or did the non-green soles of his shoe did the trick? Or maybe the doctor sahib’s brains are (literally) green, along with his heart, gallbladder and kidneys? Maybe it is not a bomb at all that he has made, but a giant shoe with non-green soles that we will use to kick India with?
Moving on, Liaquat bhai then at once puts the blame of the Iranian nuclear scientist’s murder on the continuing existence of a handful of synagogues in Iran! Shame on Iran for being a repressive theocracy and still managing to demonstrate more religious tolerance than a democracy like Pakistan can or ever will afford.
Then, like a typical whining demagogue, Liaquat says that there are synagogues in certain Muslim countries, but no mosques in Israel. At once realising that one of the holiest mosques of the Muslims is situated in Jerusalem (Dome of the Rock/Masjid Aqsa), he quotes a supposed Gulf News report that states that the Israelites have protested that the early morning call for prayer from the mosque is too loud and should be stopped.
After going through dozens of recent editions of Gulf News I could not come across even a single report suggesting the above. However, even if this is true, then Liaquat bhai should also share with his evergreen viewers the many incidents in Pakistan where perfectly good Muslims have rightly gone to court against a maulvi or two to stop them from turning the volume up to 10 while delivering the morning azaan. And as any pious Pakistani would vouch, the early morning call for prayer is (comparatively) the softest.
Anyway, doesn’t this make Iran and all the other Muslim countries that have synagogues seem a lot more tolerant than Israel?
Liaquat bhai then goes on to talk about the ‘Jesus’ Bible coded guns that were handed to some American soldiers in Afghanistan (but then taken back, even though bhai does not mention this). He says this is a sign that the war in Afghanistan and Iraq is a crusade. He moves on to suggest that the Swiss cannot tolerate minarets (on mosques); the French can’t tolerate hijabs, so on and so forth.
Indeed, how intolerant of them. But for the sake of the argument, let’s reverse the situation. Let’s say, a misled, misguided, bad and green-soled-shoe wearing Muslim like me objects to the fact that the Pakistani soldiers are trained to chant ‘Allah Akbar’ as a battle cry; or that army tanks and trucks have hadiths written on them – these are the trucks, tanks and soldiers the army will take into a war, wouldn’t it? So how is this any different than guns having verses from the Bible?
Let’s now go on to say that a bad Muslim like me also bemoans the fact that churches are regularly attacked in this country and that there are many areas in Pakistan were a woman without a hijab, a burqa, or a woman in a western dress, can’t even imagine venturing into without being harassed or attacked. If I start asking such questions, how many bemoaners of western intolerance will be willing to exhibit any tolerance themselves?
And now, returning to our cricket team, Liaquat bhai should also remind himself that each and every non-Muslim country where Inzimamul Haq’s hyper-tableeghi team played, it made it a point to hold public prayers (in the stadiums) and openly practice Islamic evangelism.
The Indians, the Australians, or the British didn’t challenge this blatant show of religious exhibitionism. It was stopped (and rightly so) by the Pakistani Cricket Board. And can you imagine what might have happened had the Indian team or an English squad decided to use Pakistani stadiums for Hindu or Christian rituals and their tours to the country as a recruiting side activity? Liaquat and the likes of him would have been throwing green-soled shoes at them and calling it jihad!
So, Liaquat bhai, life’s a two-way street, a fact that men like you continue to dodge. But what can one expect from a person who has nothing but contempt for reason and aqal?
The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.
Nadeem F. Paracha is a cultural critic and senior columnist for Dawn Newspaper and Dawn.com
He tweets @NadeemfParacha
The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.