Junaid Jamshed has been left very confused. On the one hand, being part of the Tableeghi Jamaat and being an evangelist is about being as misogynistic as possible, in fact it is the cannon fodder for all talks, moots and sermons: the status of women being well below that of men, the ways to enforce that status, what to do when women step out of line, how to ensure that they never even think about stepping out of line, ways to punish those who do and, finally, the status of men who do not believe in this power equation, being even below that of women. However, on the other hand, it reveres certain women, the women who are part of the sacred club. This all women versus sacred women narrative is a reality in societies like ours. The first can be scorned, made fun of, teased, called inertly crooked and scheming, but the latter cannot.
Junaid Jamshed got his groups wrong. It was a fatal mistake. Fatal in every sense of the word. The blasphemy accusation against him has led to a sectarian war between the Barelvis, represented by the Sunni Tehreek, and the Deobandis, represented by the Tableeghi Jamaat. Whenever that happens, it never ends well. Hands clasped, lips quivering and voice shaking, he begged in a video he released to be forgiven. He said that he was unaware that what he was saying was offensive, that he is after all a human being, and only prophets do not err.
He has a point. But this argument did not fly for the Christian couple that was burned to ashes for the same accusation nor Rashid Rehman, the lawyer who was killed for protecting clients who were accused of the same, or Salmaan Taseer, the Punjab governor who stood up for Aasia Bibi who was accused of the same, or Aasia Bibi for that matter, whose appeals keep getting declined by the courts. The Sunni Tehreek sees blood. They have staged protests to put pressure against the government to arrest him under the blasphemy case filed against him.
Junaid Jamshed — a shirtless glamour shot of him from his boyband days of Vital Signs still linger on the internet like a tomb — has come a long way since then, or rather gone off a long way into the abyss depending on how you look at it. He is also a business tycoon, leading one of the largest textile design brands the country has. These facts make him an unlikely victim of blasphemy laws that are seemingly only architected for the utterly weak and severely powerless, for those who need to be punished for unrelated transgressions, that often begin with them wanting to opt out of oppression of some sort. Junaid Jamshed does not fit that mould by any standard. Except that there is not one kind of religious fundamentalism. He just got caught in the crosshairs of two warring groups fighting for the crown/reward system.
Waddling from the entertainment world to one in a highly controlled domain, Junaid Jamshed perhaps has now realised from his UK abode that no matter how hard he tried — the beard, the Arabic accent, the conservative attire — the fact is that this domain is one where very few are accepted. Women are always outside this club and now Junaid Jamshed has a feel for what it is like for women, the same ones he was demeaning with his sermon. Junaid Jamshed’s attitude towards women was never respectful. Earlier he had said that women should not drive. One cannot be sure if his strategy was to appease the gatekeepers of his domain by kicking women down but it just backfired massively. He was just championing the same fallacy he had claimed years ago when he said that Pakistan gets earthquakes because it is a sinful country.
One cannot feel sad about the karma of it all. Junaid Jamshed is just the product of a society that has perfected the art of disturbing the disturbed and comforting the comfortable. There is no one checking the rise of the mafia using religion to establish control through fear and tyranny. Religion is no longer left to the saints who profess the value of human life, the spirit of forgiveness or the importance of devotion to the truth. It is now a