What Disco Mullah could do

Remember Junaid Jamshed? The former pop star turned reactionary preacher who had to flee Pakistan for London when he was accused of blasphemy by another reactionary preacher?

First, more about him from the BBC three weeks ago.

…the BBC’s Shaima Khalil in Islamabad says what makes Junaid Jamshed’s case so unusual is the fact that he is a high-profile, wealthy Muslim preacher.

As opposed to a Christian peasant woman like Asia Bibi.

In his video broadcast, which has since been widely shared, he appeared to make negative remarks about the Prophet’s youngest wife Ayesha.

He described how Ayesha demanded attention from the Prophet and how one day she faked an illness.

The video led to another Muslim group, Sunni Tehrik, filing the blasphemy case.

Junaid Jamshed – who is called “Disco Mullah” because of his role with the Tablighi Jamaat organisation – released a further video after the incident pleading for forgiveness.

But the blasphemy law isn’t about forgiveness, is it.

But the complainant, Sunni Tehrik spokesman Mohammad Mobeen Qadri, told BBC Urdu that an apology could not stop the legal process once blasphemy had been committed.

Before embarking on his religious career, Jamshed was a member of Vital Signs, a number of whose songs and albums topped the charts.

And now he has a third career: hiding from religious zealots.

Now an article by Kunwar Khuldune Shahid last week suggests that his case could be a way into reforming the blasphemy law.

‘Scholars’ who had dubbed blasphemy an unpardonable sin are seeking pardon, when Asia Bibi, Rimsha Masih, Shama and Shahzad Masih and countless others weren’t even given the chance to apologise. The same individuals who eulogise Shariah law and scorn secularism are taking refuge in secular realms, vying to dodge the ramifications of the same jurisprudence they tout as the foundation of the Islamic Utopia. Not to mention the fact that it was the narration of a religious scripture that summoned the blasphemy accusation in the first place.

The paradox, hypocrisy and irony in this entire episode are self-evident and have been thoroughly highlighted.

But given the realities, he says, the need is not to rejoice in Jamshed’s capture in a trap he has helped to set, but to use him as a lever to make the trap less lethal. If an apology can get him off the hook, then it should be able to get others off the hook.

Notwithstanding the allure of watching a despicable man fall in a trap that he’s set for others, many of us do not perceive the bigger picture here. We don’t realise the utility of the mullah in what is a rare opportunity to revamp the ugliest side of Pakistan.

After the virulence that JJ has been propagating in the garb of religion, it’s difficult to have any compassion for him; definitely not after watching the loathsome apology that he has recorded.  But we need to recognise the fact that it’s not just about one single detestable nut-head, and his brazen duplicity. It’s about the fate of those that have already suffered cataclysmic repercussions amidst the frequent Islamic spasms.

If the blasphemy law can gobble up a Jamshed it will be even more ravenous toward everyone else.

If the Pakistani establishment is as keen on curbing religious fanaticism as it has been peddling via the ISPR, and the touted casualty count of Islamist terrorists, it possesses the necessary muscle to use mullahs like Junaid Jamshed – and by correlation Tariq Jameel – into showcasing alleged blasphemy as a ‘pardonable sin.’ Once that happens, countless Christians, Hindus, Ahmadis and even the Shia, would be spared the wrath of the mullah and his personal toy that the blasphemy law has become.

In the ideal world no one should be forced to apologise – let alone be massacred – for holding any religious beliefs – or none whatsoever – but in Pakistan, one of the farthermost domains from the ideal world, giving blasphemy-accused the opportunity to apologise for a non-existent crime – one they never committed – would be a massive step towards eventually making said apology superfluous.

If an ‘Islamic scholar’ like Junaid Jamshed, with decades worth of indoctrination under his increasingly protracted belt, can ‘err’ into ‘unintentional blasphemy’, surely a non-Muslim, can make a similar mistake. This should be the official tagline for the reformist movement designed to save innocent lives from the murderous allegation of blasphemy.

In other words to reform it, the reformers have to take it on its own terms, at least for now. That must be a bitter pill to swallow.




  1. says

    I am reminded I very much like the cut of Mr. Shahid’s jib.

    … and I hope this is somehow a possibility, here, but I’m not sure how much hope I’d say I hold. Yes, it would be a very reasonable, humane reform. But it seems more in character, to me, for this lot just to hang one of their own, all in the name of proving their absolute ‘incorruptibility’. And then off into the abyss, the brakes off entirely, as predicted.

    … hoping I’m wrong, still, I guess.

  2. Intaglio says

    Here’s hoping it does lead to a reform of a particularly obnoxious piece of theocratic nonsense.

    But there is a small part of me that is experiencing schadenfreude despite the extreme sanction Mr Jamshed faces

  3. miraxpath says

    I highly respect Kunwar Shahid, but he is dead wrong in arguing that if the mullahs could be nudged into forgiving one of their own, they could then be persuaded to treat others, particularly vulnerable minorities, in a similar way and be somehow pressured to look upon blasphemy as a ‘forgivable’ sin. He is assuming rationality and reciprocity are qualities these stupid murderous beasts possess when repeated evidence shows that they are duplicitous and extremely capable of applying egregious double standards. Islamic jurispudence is also inherently biased against non muslims, so even the good mullahs’ hands are tied. i am wary of arguments that ask for compromise with such absolute and nonsensical viewpoints, it is the argument of people who have already conceded the battle and are grasping at anything to prevent their country self-imploding into obscurity. If that is where your demented laws take you, that’s where you deserve to go.

  4. Blanche Quizno says

    I find myself wondering if it will not turn out to be the case that those attempting to recruit others into Islam via persuasion will find themselves charged with blasphemy for their awkward if well-meaning sales pitches. Given that Islamic regimes seem to have reached a consensus that the at-the-point-of-a-sword approach is the way to go, we may never know…

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