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The fatwa factory

The fatwa factory

Last night, I happened to watch the most brilliant (and at the same time, disgusting) TV show on a local Urdu news channel. Brilliant, because in an hour it summarised everything that is wrong with this country and our mindset. The show featured our entertainment industry’s starlet Veena Malik and, Mufti Abdul Qawi.

Not that I was expecting anything but vitriol on the show, but even then I was shocked. From the way Veena Malik was introduced to the closing statement of the show, every single minute was filled with chauvinistic and downright derogatory remarks.

The programme started with clips from the Indian reality show (Bigg Boss) that Veena was a part of, a show that has stirred quite a controversy. The subject of controversy being that apparently, Veena did not correctly represent Pakistan or Islam on the Indian TV show.

Throughout the hour-long programme, the host kept attacking Veena by using words such as “oryan,” “fahash”  and kept insisting that Veena had brought shame to Islam, Pakistan and our culture. The Mufti on the show was asked to judge Veena’s presence on Bigg Boss in the light of Islam. Here, I must also add that the host tried his best to emphasise that the Mufti had the right to impose a fatwa on Veena for her actions.

I must commend Veena for standing her ground with such grace. Despite the kind of language and slander that was being hurled her way, she braved a response and a commendable one too: “From my wardrobe to everything else, nothing on that show was in anyway different than what we see our actresses doing or wearing in our films. I was representing the entertainment industry of the country. One click on the internet can justify it all.”

Her response to the Mufti and the host, brought to the forefront the harassment women have to face that has conveniently been camouflaged as ‘honour and dignity’. But what really pushed me to write this blog was a question Veena asked Mufti Abdul Qawi: “Why am I being treated this way? Why am I being questioned? What is my fault, Mufti sahab? Because I am a woman? A soft target?”

It is true, no one would have dared to speak in such a way to a man, call him names or even questioned his character or his activities on national television. Not that they should, but has anyone ever questioned Atif Aslam, Ali Zafar, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan or the numerous others who have worked in Indian films, produced music and music videos in India?  Has anyone ever scrutinised their actions? We have never discussed if any of their videos merit Islam or our culture. Yet, we consider it our right to slander a woman and make her look like the sole custodian of the country’s ‘honour’.

Those who believe such vehement reactions are justified need to rethink their definition of ‘honour and dignity’. Honour that gets disrupted because of a woman’s appearance on a reality show but remains unscathed when over a 1,000 infants – most of them girls – are killed or abandoned to die. This is nothing short of hypocrisy.

In a country, struggling with insurgencies, poverty, inflation, and failure of governance, what Veena Malik did or said on a reality show should be the least of our concerns. But it seems as though moral policing has become our favourite past time. To be more precise, such slurs are actually called ‘slut-shaming.’ What this means is that when a woman acts in a way that is not considered acceptable in the society she lives in, she is verbally attacked and slandered in order to rule out her credibility; in order to divert focus from the main issue.

Veena Malik is just one example how certain factions of our media have resorted to moral policing and even advocating fatwas on anyone and everyone. Never mind that we have never pushed for fatwas against suicide bombings, honour killings and many other heinous acts justified in the name of Islam.

I recall thinking at one point during the show, how Veena Malik did not represent me and that we should stop making this about the ‘country’s image’. But after watching her response to the slurs being hurled her way, I take it back. Veena Malik represents me and many, many women in this country who have been subjected to moral policing. In a country where rape is justified, murderers glorified and women threatened by fatwas, Veena speaks for me and many others.

At the end of the programme, a teary-eyed Veena questioned the absence of outrage from her fellow countrymen, when she was being abused, bullied and subjected to hate for being a Pakistani on the same show. In those last minutes, she struck at the very heart of hypocrisy that is rampant in this country.

The Moral Police or the Ghairat Brigade conveniently turns a blind eye to horrific incidents like when infants get raped, but creates uproar if a woman dares to make choices for herself. It is my request to my readers and everyone who indulges in such behaviour to please stop; stop this madness, the moral policing and the fatwa factory before it devours us all.

Sana Saleem is a Features Editor at BEE magazine and blogs at Global Voices,  Asian Correspondent, The Guardian and her personal blog Mystified Justice. She was awarded the Best Activist Blogger Award by CIO & Google at the Pakistan Blogger Awards. She can be found on Facebook and Twitter.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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389 Responses to “The fatwa factory”

  1. R R says:

    Mullahs are the ones making Pakistan look bad, not actresses like Veena.

    • Mustafa says:

      Indeed Mullahs are the ones making Pakistan look bad. It was Jinnah’s dream to see Pakistan become like Turkey, not like Afghanistan. Turkey got rid of Mullahs’ power to become progressive. Pakistan is in the grip of Mullahs and it will not change unless Pakistanis seriously wish to become progressive nation like Turkey.

      • RJ says:

        Agree but they are not the only culprits. Each individual Pakistani including myself is responsible. Each of us is responsible. no one is owning the country. everyone is playing the blame game. our morality has vanished for good. Hope is the thing we could hold on to.

  2. Abbas Sukhera ( USA) says:

    It made me cringe when I saw a small clip of Veena Malik and an Hindu Actor dangerously close to each other in a reality show. I seemed like they are connected at the hip. This is not acting this is pure sleaziness and moral bankruptcy. No wonder her engagement with a Pakistani man has broken off. I don’ think she will ever find a good role in any Pakistani film or TV show. She has ruined her movie career for good. Money is not everything in life, she made a bad decision in selecting a role which is very offensive for any dignified human being. I live in a very open society and even American actresses will never accept such a sleazy role. She must be very desperate to be on a TV show and this show has no script except holding the man very tight or sleeping together under a blanket. She is a bad example for all the Pakistani girls who are truly beautiful inside and out and respect, and dignity is more valuable to them than money.

    • zohra says:

      u r right!!

      • NFB says:

        I am sorry to say but those who think Veena is representing dignified Pakistani women… pls just reply to one question ! Every person has its own identity why does veena represent Pakistani girls? we represent our own-selves through our character and moral values…. Veena has nothing to do with a common Pakistani girl… It depends on every Pakistani girl to think on her own and decide whats right n whats wrong…

        Those who think veena is a bad example pls come and check the movies , tv programs on Pakistani channel and pls then comment on veena … sorry to say but mashallah our media is doing a better role in portraying dignified people …

        This is all absurd .. why dont we look in ourselves than commenting on veena reema meera… keep some decisions for God as well to decide who is right n whose wrong …. come on !! take a break !!! think something positive for Pakistan ..

        • nouman qureshi says:

          ur absolutely right!!!!!!!
          but explain that to the writer of the article….she is represented by veena…

  3. Atif says:

    Ever thought how vena made a fool of you all by turning her Immoral episode issue into a sexist one? I can blast all her arguments in 2 minutes.

    Simple thing is it is NOT about sexism but what she did was NEVER done and can never be done. A Pakistani woman (yes she was called on the show coz she is a pakistani with media attention that time due to asif issue) massaging and sleeping with Ashmit patel on LIVE TV. And before you say more, the other participant confirmed there was NO SCRIPT and hence blasted this big lie of vena the whore.

    She is basically trying to justify using sexist argument or claiming as if 2 wrongs make a right think about it

  4. aqeel says:

    this is called liberal extremism……!!!! well we can find so many religious and liberal extremism every where. Islam is leveled religion na itna zaida moderate hai aur na he zaida extremist.
    but ya saba aur veena jesay log islam ke ghalat pic display kar rahay hain.

  5. ahwi says:

    Agreed with hamid….

  6. rahmat says:

    hello !i did;nt see thw show but ,but it’s time for the mullah to stop let people to live the way they want,veena is nobody is property and nobody should juged her ,please it’s her right pakistan wake up before is too late .

  7. NK says:

    Veena is such a practical Muslim and PAKISTAN will prosper if all the ladies in the country are like THE VEENA.
    This is a true picture of being liberal, we are free and have a right to do anything anywhere. VEENA you are great and you are an asset to Pakistan.

  8. almas abbas says:

    I liked your blog and agreed with no doubts! i in my office also have had difference in the opinion who thought that Veena Malik should have done that and not that! for me this is a hypocrisy and also the mentality of the people as they are unable to differentiate. Veena has guts and is brave for which i liked her. Thanks for writing such articles Sana as many would find it a good oppurtunity to open their eyes.

  9. Asash says:

    I agree with the author of the blog. Our society still does not accept that woman should have equal opportunity in every walk of life. Behaviour with a woman is always very rude even in professional enviroment. We cannot say that Veena is the only one who has done something wrong. Many men have done things that cannot be tolerated, then why are they not questioned.

    For every act, one is answerable to Allah, then why insulting her or anyone else in front of everyone?

    Just a way for media to gain popularity.

    Unfortunately, we have forgotten our values. We have forgotten how to respect and that is the main cause of destruction..

  10. Sadia AK says:


    I appreciate you writing skills but u need to re-look around..
    when it come to VEENA MALIK only everything is good and acceptable but when it is about DAUGHTER OF PAKISTAN, I strongly condemn.. She shouldnt be sayin “I was representing Pakistan”.. She did not.. Pakistan is all about its Respectfulness of its Sons n HAYA of its Daughters..
    As a person, Veena Malik is strongest woman but as a Pakistani she shouldnt be claiming herself Pious anymore..

  11. Mahin says:

    i am shocked at sana saleems remarks although i did not liked what the mufti or the anchor said on that show but i have watched all the episodes of big boss and am truly ashamed of the actress. i cannot forget the remarks her co participants made about her attire which was way way way too less. and in movies we expect a particular audience who likes the subject of the movie to watch it. it is not that puclic. like a tv show which is for a large number of audience and is shown in alot of countries. our movies are not even seen in our country rather than other countries so the dress code of our film industry does not in any way represent our country our people or our women.

  12. ajavaid says:

    being a Muslim she should not have to do this while saying representing the country.

  13. Mullashikan says:

    Time has come to make up our minds. It is right that an open debate happens. I do not want to live the life prescribed by Mullahs. Why should they prescribe any way. I am sure only a very small minority in Pakistan will disagree with me. Unfortunately the mullahs are too loud. Not fair, not correct, just loud. They have hijacked our country and are holding all of us to ransom. If more of us say what we want out loud may be we can also be heard.

  14. Aziz says:

    Veena Malik can do whatever she want with her life, but if she is representing Pakistan, (which she was as is everybody who is outside Pakistan travelling on a Pakistani passport). She should have behaved as Pakistan women do, not less not more. She disgraced us (except those who don’t ever feel disgraced), just like the author. People trying to defend her should understand why Pakistan was made in the first place.

  15. Gul says:

    I am appalled by the abysmal decadence of thought and action that our society is suffering in 21st century. This has happened because we have associated morality with the outward appearances and have formulated innumerable standards of it that fit ‘our ways of thinking and beliefs’. All sorts of ills are accepted in our society, but when Veena shows her professional talent in a foreign land, we feel disgraced and forget what is actually happening in our own gardens. We need to do some soul searching before playing the ‘moral police’. Dear country men and women, please stop this none sense talks and engage in some serious business of home-cleaning. Home cleaning must start from self! Veena has done her best as a professional. I have done worst by watching her in my own stereotypical lens of gender discrimination. I was more interested in her body contours and seductive actions than professional output as a showbiz person. Problem lies in my eyes and thoughts, not in the reality show or Veena!

  16. Osman says:

    We have focused more on those matters in society which we can easily target, rather than those which needs to be self-corrected. Eventhough we claim that we do give rights but it seems like empty words as no action justify it until and unless you put yourself in the same condition.. Each individual has importance of making society in a right direction while government or leadership guides them to achieve target. But sadly in our case, either hyper-religion or feudalism mindset have been put together their own interpretation to control people. We can see both types of people in our society, VM and Maulana, and which are demonstrating contradictions of our mindsets. Religion is a baseline for us to have faith, values and ethics in our lives..

  17. Taimoor says:

    You must listen to what Veena REMARKED about Meera when she (Meera) acted in an indian flick. Honble writer: Two wrongs doesn’t make One right. trying to justify your position by referring to what else going wrong is a mere >>>>>>>>. It means everyone in this country can be suicide bomber. Not at all acceptable. Doesnot agree with a single word of this article. Being a muslim no man or woman is supposed to be indulged in such activities. Stop protecting her because she is just a woman and stop saying that Veena is soft target. She is being targetted very rightly for her actions. What ever is going on in our theaters, Films, Music Industry, High upperclass is not right and every body condemns that. Veena is being targetted for defending herself and not showing the character to appologise. She could have said that it was demand of the script and if by doing so if she unintentionally hurt the feeling of any one she deeply appolgizes for that and that could have done the trick.

  18. Saba_Pz says:

    Way to go Sana Saleem!

  19. Arsalan says:

    Not agreed with Ms. Sana Saleem at all.

    Its not about hitting women as a soft target, we the people try to raise voice against every possible injustice that takes place in our society whether it is a crime of any sort for that matter.
    N if you think that Veena malik did everything right there in that BB show then could you plz answer my single question would you dare to do the same cheap acts on television if provided both fame and money? i don’t think you will.

    As far as tv shows and their masala works concerned, they all try to use every possible situation to limelight their trps by using anything possible, and even you for that matter has written this article to leave a strong reply using this situation, ignoring the facts and figure you also know it. But, sorry to say there will be not much public behind you for this one.

  20. Shahzad says:

    If you read SURA KAFIROON, the last AYAA which says “that is your religion and this is my religion”. It can also fits here (that is your islam and this is my islam). Now a days when we do something against the teaching of Islam after that we try to prove that this is exactly according to my Islam. Media is the main source which promots vulgarity.


  21. momina says:

    i also happen to be one of those who had watched da show
    and now when i happen to read all thee coments on this blogs

    i am now in the state of mind that we all should focus on “what we are doing and how “so called ” Islam we are spreading by crictising a women ”

    no one in the right mind should criticizes her because what Vm did is all that what is done in our fashion industry and what we people like to see in the “indian and english movies”

    i truly agree with Sana saleem
    and please guys “live your life and stop judging others “

  22. Shah says:

    I’m not really sure what she did, but from hearing the news it just seems disgusting of what she did. It’s a shame to be even calling our country the ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF PAKISTAN, what’s going on in our country, we all should be ashamed. I don’t think any of us would want our mothers or daughters sleeping like that with other men at all then why do we support other women doing it, it just shows we are all hypocrites.

  23. AA says:

    Dear Sana,

    Barring the host of the show, the attitude of both Veena and Mufti sb. was despicable.

    Let me ask you a question: What Veena was doing on the show, would you be able to do that ? Would you be happy to sleep with Ashmeet and give him massage… Or, better enough, would you be able to see your sister, daughter and/or mother perform those acts. If yes, your article does make sense, and i salute you for writing what you did. If not, what you have written is nothing more than hypocricy…

    Regarding Mufti sb, it was a shame to hear from him, the words he said. Especially the part that, Veena bohot khoobsoorat hai, lambi hai, etc, etc…. I mean come on, to me it seemed like, he was literally drooling over her. Mufti sb. was brought over to the show to explain, if what Veena did, was fine according to Islam. This needed a single one-liner.

    Thirdly and most importantly, Pakistan (God-forbid) is now on the verge of collapse. Reason being, one wrong is used to justify another wrong. Suicide bombing is used to justify immorality. Corruption is used to justify corruption.. This is the state of a nation in total chaos, and whose writers, ones people look up to, being in an utter state of confusion. They write to the people of pakistan, but their audience is far far away. Demonstrations are being done in Liberty, audience definitely not pakistani…

    Good luck…

    • AHK says:

      Quite right. Just because the Mufti was obnoxious and had nothing better to do then waste his time discussing Veena Malik, does not make the manner in which Veena Malik acted right in any way.

      Just because there is hypocracy in our society & what our movies are similarly vulgar does not make the manner in which Veena Malik acted right in any way.

      Two wrongs do not make a right.

  24. Muztarab says:

    Another very courageous article from this writer. Why is that many Pakistani’s love to tie these individual acts or if you want to call it “entertainers transgressions” to the image of Pakistan. Veena Malik does not represent Pakistan or Islam. She was not elected or selected to go to India by Pakistani’s or their government. She only represent herself and as an individual she is entitled to do whatever she likes as long as she obeys the law of the land. The outrage exhibited is totally misplaced, world does not know Pakistan or Islam through Veena Malik, they know Pakistan and it’s religion through whatever is going on in Pakistan today from corruption till terrorism.

  25. rk singh says:

    The Mufti should realise that there is something called generation gap. Youngsters acting in the way they feel appropriate and elders fuming(it is happening right now between ALL parents and their children). He cant stop them from being daring, risktaking, scandalous, sexy, whatever u want to call. They would like to live the way they feel appropriate. The world 25-30 years later may not be same as today. If muftis and maulanas impose their fatwas to stop the time, it will not work, it will harm Pakistan.

  26. Agha Asad Raza says:

    Well done Sana, I have all praise for you! It is so good to hear a sane vouce in all this madness!

  27. Tahir Rizvi says:

    I am amazed to notice the interest, enthusiasm and the number of comments received on the subject of the “The fatwa factory”. Reading our news papers, the political dialogue and the subject being discussed in our country it looks like we do not have any real problems or points of public discussion except: religion, sports, politics, corruption of politicians, role/dress of women and other similar subjects which do not relate directly to the day to day governing of our nation. We should expect our press to inform what real work our good or bad our central Government, Provincial Governments, and local Governments are performing which impact our lives and bread and butter issues. We, as citizens, should expect or Governments at all levels to report their progress of work to us on a weekly, monthly or quarterly basis so that we can judge how far we have moved and in what direction? Have we progressed or have we gone backwards. We should expect some numbers so that we can judge the progress made or not made. Most of the issues we mostly discuss are of no real value to a common man of our country where living is hard and poverty wide spread.
    I hope and pray that our intelligentsia will focus on our real problems which are: law & order, economy, education, defense, housing, infra structure, balanced utilization & appropriation of our national yearly budget, exports/imports, balanced taxation and similar practical issues which impact our life plus living standards. I will urge all of us to please address our real issues which matter most to our poor people and future generations.

  28. Aisha says:

    well all of these articles made me thing where is our country is going?? do u have a lot of time thinking and writing so much about veena???

    There was no use of a mufti in that programme….veena destroyed the whole left image of pakistan…what she did hindu people also didnt do that!!its not a personal indoor matter that we keep quite…we know billions of women involve in adultery …veena was among those woman whose topless picture circulated in the world of internet 10 years back…noone raised the issue that time…coz it was her personal matter…but now she played with the emotions of Pakistanis…we always blame cricketers on their sattay bazi and bad games just coz they destroyed our image….so why not veena???

    we should condemn such acts as much as we can to save our future!!!!

  29. Rimsha says:

    Sana i totally agree with you. Veena is not a girl next door she is an actress and works for Pakistani film industry when we say Pakistani film industry we all know how it is. It is full of cheap and vulgar dances and dresses and body languages,i once saw a program related to Pakistani film industry and a very known director clearly said that “we make movies for a certain group of people who like to watch vulgar dances and vulgar stuff”. So there is no point putting any Fatwa just on her why not on our stage dramas and films?
    I totally totally agree with veena when she said what is happening on our stage and fashion shows etc is not less than what she has done then why she is the only one being targeted. I have studied in a fashion school and i have seen alot of stuff which me or my family would not accept at all above all our Religion would not accept it at all but why we are not talking in general why we are just after Veena? I am sorry to say when our political people are doing quite alot of stuff that is not accepted by our Religion then why we are not putting any Fatwas on them why just one lady?

  30. IAQ says:

    Dear SANA,
    You may be good writer but please browse her on internet, u tube and google. before you justify VM.
    ” Prophet sws said ‘ No Haya No deen”

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