One of the key signs of a society’s moral vacuum is the fervent importance given to celebrity opinions on issues of vital local and global import. Celebrities have their value of course, and some of them may even be worth emulating. But to me (call me a relic), their raison d être is entertainment, so I’m not keen on listening to them spouting off on religion or politics or anything serious at all, really.
Cue Hamza Abbasi: a brand unto himself of late, yet less for his profession and more for his social media soapboxing. The man has strong opinions on literally everything under the sun and seems keen on sharing them. For anyone to do so in the public eye is a considerable risk; if the forthcoming opinions lack good sense or even basic knowledge, the risk morphs into a potential disaster.
Take his comments on minorities, for example. Pakistanis have a gift for selective sanctimony and this man is no different. He picks and chooses among causes worthy of his notice; so where the plight of Rohnigya Muslims is deserving of his noble sympathy, noting the daily discrimination and cruelty faced by minorities in this country is akin to ‘ranting’. It never ceases to disgust shock me how feverishly Pakistanis rush to defend Muslims while blindly, steadfastly ignoring their own fellow non-Muslim citizens. It’s as nauseating as all those times politicians refer to Pakistanis and Muslims as interchangeable, blithely ignoring hundreds of thousands of Christians, Hindus and others; if I were a minority in this country, I would do my best to leave.
Another example is recent, and concerns the grandfather of all bugaboos: decency. What is it, who practises it, who doesn’t and most crucially, who decides? Herein lies the crux. At a cursory glance, I would say men. As long as you are a man, you are free to make the rules. Hence, it’s really no surprise to receive Hamza’s ruminations on the subject. He is a staunch proponent of decency, and right now he’s aimed his ire at Saif Ali Khan and his new (likely beyond mediocre) film. According to Hamza, any Pakistani who shares a song from said film ‘lacks basic human decency’.
I have some issues with this statement:
1) Who appointed Hamza Abbasi, a young actor, the arbiter of human decency in Pakistan?
2) When did individuals lose their right to like whatever entertainment they choose?
3) So sharing an Indian song is as mortal a lapse in decency, as, say, all those men who molest women and children in this country on a daily basis?
4) How about men who stare at women (even those safely ensconced in burqas) until their eyes water, while sporting long beards of piety?
You get my drift. Throwing around terms like ‘human decency’ is rash at best and disingenuous at worst. Unfortunately it’s also the kind of thing that gets immediate traction.
It gets more bizarre: I just googled the man and read he’s now distancing himself from his own films?! I confess, I am stumped. Did he not participate in the making of the same or did the powers that be somehow include him without his knowledge? He appears to claim the questionable bits were added later. I may well be wrong, but there looks to be an awful lot of back-pedaling and obfuscation going on here. Perhaps even a touch of hoarding a slice of cake while chomping on it.
Ultimately, this isn’t about Hamza or any other celebrity. The sad truth is, we have come to a point in our global culture where celebrities are perched high on pedestals and mere humans clustered beneath, hungry for wisdom. The reasons range from growing disenchantment with politicians to the proliferation of social media to the exorbitant money celebrities make in so many countries. Too often, talent is extrapolated with perfection and this is where the danger lies. Unfortunately, it looks to be more of the same, at least in the foreseeable future.
Sara Amjad Qureshi works in marketing.