Editorial note: “LUBP stands in solidarity with Professor Hoodbhoy. It was not just troubling to see Ansar Abbasi’s disgusting and nonsensical diatribe against Professor Hoodbhoy – there was also a sense of irony. After all this is the same Ansar Abbasi whose response to the lashing of a teenage girl by the Taliban was a mixture of denial and justification. As for the “Jahil” pejorative, is this not the same Ansar Abbasi whose unchallenged platform on GEO and other media channels made him the central character in pressurizing the Government to ban YouTube. Millions of Pakistanis who used YouTube’s vast educational resources have been denied this by the efforts of the real “Jahil”. This is not the first time that Professor Hoodbhoy has been attacked in this vicious manner on Pakistan’s so-called “independant media”. In 2009, on Hamid Mir’s Capital Talk show, the host (Mir) along with Imran Khan and Irfan Siddiqui ganged up to do something similar when they had no response to the good Professor’s exposure of the Taliban’s barbarity. We at LUBP are used to such attacks – both from the religious right and pseudo liberal elites. Specifically when we challenged Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s leadership, it was shocking to see Najam Sethi’s cohorts swing into action with their threats, intimidation and harrasment. These hate mongering bigots and their enablers need to be taken on. We request all our readers to put their weight behind Professor Hoodbhoy. And not just on social media. Please write to the media channels and ask them to reform their behavior. The Ansar Abbasi’s, the Ludhainvi’s, the Hamid Guls, the Orya Maqbool Jans and the Imran Khans are only as powerful as their enablers. If the Hamid Mirs, Najam Sethis and Kashif Abbasis had the decency to properly moderate and organize their shows, this situation would never have happened. In this specific instance, the host Kamran Shahid was seen sniggering away while Ansar Abbasi was frothing nonsense at the Professor.
Yesterday’s TV soap opera in which two right wing columnists/journalists (Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool Jaan) and left wing intellectual Dr. Pervez Hoodbhouy had a brawl wasn’t only surprising but also upsetting. And I consider it very detrimental to the healthy debate, specially on national TV.
The casual audience was stunned as what the simple case study of Malala’s book, lead to instant fume and fury. But those who know the history of the participants ideological aligning only witnessed the public display of the dark energy under the fault-lines, brewed over the years. Now ideas and opinion difference leading to personal animosity and that too within the rank of opinion makers.
This further shows the receding to non-existent tolerance for others’ opinion that is hardly surprising given the history of extended and black periods of Martial Laws.
The traditional right wing has now adopted to the excessive use of religion to gain advantage in their personal statements in an already religiously charged society. The opponent is cornered in such a way that either it wins the argument or the life. These are the advanced stages of ailing intellectual discourse in the society.
The liberal wing which remained disadvantaged over the last three decades owing to the state’s comprehensive support for right wing, has already thinned out. Though it still has few pockets of resistance but when given a chance sometime unknowingly touches the sensitivities of generally enforced version of religion which is increasingly becoming homogeneous. When given a chance they instantly route to those ideas for which the nation is not ready to comprehend given the mental training and lack of understanding of the moving parts of those ideas which further leads to frustration of the speaker and audience alike.
The above mentioned schism can be traced in the roots of educational system where the divide between poor and affluent’s educational system plays its role. The under-privileged class is not exposed to those texts which their counter-parts grow up with, resulting in total different interpretation of the same event. Even the tone and tenor of English language newspapers is different from the ubiquitous Urdu language newspapers. The same news of a national sensitivity matter is decorated with the different and mutually inverse headline in Urdu and English newspapers and magazines.
In this emotionally charged and polarized society, the role of opinion makers become increasingly important. If no conscious effort is made to train the masses, this country is going nowhere. The weak political parties, who subscribe to popularism than realism, because masses lack of understanding of the real issues, the responsibilities of media grows manifold where the real spirit of journalism should be unmasked over the commercial interests and ‘whatever sells’ phenomena. Once society is back on tracks, economy would certainly provide them enough space to harness their financial well-being.