ISLAMABAD: Well-known cleric and public speaker Maulana Tariq Jameel tendered an unconditional apology to media personnel as well as his fellow clerics on Friday over remarks on Thursday in which he had termed media houses “liars”.
Speaking as a guest at a talk show hosted by anchor Muhammad Maalik, Maulana Tariq acknowledged that his “tongue had slipped” towards the end of a telethon the previous day, which was also attended by Prime Minister Imran Khan. “This happens, as I speak a lot,” he said to Mr Maalik.
The maulana had stirred a storm among journalists and members of the civil society by calling media houses around the world, including Pakistan, “liars” and said the organisations “needed to be more truthful”.
While saying a longish prayer at the end of the Ehsaas Telethon, which was meant to raise funds for the victims of the Covid-19 pandemic, Maulana Tariq said one of the main issues involved was “not speaking the truth”.
“The prime minister is here, media anchorpersons are here... Do we consider how we are going to face the day of judgement due to our deceitfulness?”
Speaking about an unnamed proprietor of a news organisation, the cleric said: “The owner of a mainstream channel asked me for some advise; I told him to abolish all incorrect news from his channel. The owner replied that in case that was done the channel would be finished but twisting of facts would not end... This is not just here, but media the world over is the same.”
The maulana also cast aspersions on a large number of women, blaming those who “were often scantily dressed” for the spread of coronavirus in the country. He condemned such women and said their behaviour was bringing such wrath upon the country.
As the telethon ended with prayers said by the maulana, the anchors who were present on the occasion did not get an opportunity to respond to the comments about media houses.
Among those who reacted strongly to Maulana Tariq’s remarks was prominent anchorperson Hamid Mir, who said in a tweet that giving such generalised statements about media houses was “an irresponsible act”. “Maulana Tariq Jameel used to give similar statements to Nawaz Sharif’s cabinet too in 1990s.”
The anchor was of the view that the maulana should name the channel owner who had said that false and fake news could never end.
The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) also took exception to the clerics’ comments. In a tweet, the commission said: “HRCP is appalled at Maulana Tariq Jameel’s recent statement inexplicably correlating women’s modesty to the coronavirus pandemic.”
“Such blatant objectification is unacceptable and when aired on a public television it only compounds the misogyny entrenched in society,” the commission added.
However, on Friday Maulana Tariq named several anchors and clerics before tendering an unqualified apology. “Such things happen, but there is no reason for the slip of tongue made by me,” he said.
He, however, did not name any channel owner despite repeated requests by Mr Maalik.
Published in Dawn, April 25th, 2020