We have observed the holy month of Ramazan since our childhood with religious fervour and spiritual zeal. However, celebrations during the month have been commercialised in recent years. Such trends can be attributed to the growing dominance of the electronic media in the country.
Ramazan is observed in a similar manner across South Asia. However, these similarities have been completely overshadowed by the corporatisation of this holy month. This has been particularly witnessed in Pakistan where a new culture of corporate Islam has been created.
Gone are the days when the entire month of Ramazan was celebrated with simplicity and was interwoven with spiritual practices and prayers – irrespective of any cultural limitations. The corporatisation of Ramazan has commercialised its original nature. This has resulted in countless problems for Muslims who live below the poverty line.
The Ramazan shows that punctuate the electronic media are backed by corporate companies that are more interested in selling their products. This negates the very spirit of Ramazan that promotes a culture of tolerance and forbearance – which is the crux of all religious teachings.
This is creating a new culture of corporatisation that needs to be regulated before it crosses all limits. The pre-Ramazan warnings by Pemra over the practice of explaining religious questions without seeking any certified scholarly opinions are also ignored.
Audiences from urban and semi-urban areas – especially young people – mostly tend to tune into the electronic media and instantly begin to adopt what they see on TV. What form of shallow content do we want show our new generation? Aren’t we adding more to the religious radicalisation of the audience rather than instilling egalitarian and universal values?
Our policymakers, opinion-makers and parliamentarians must look into this absurd trend that has gained currency. It is being promoted indirectly through the commercialisation triggered by the corporate culture. This new, commercial trend needs to be discouraged, reconsidered and revamped as per the original essence of Ramazan that seeks to balance, rather than increase, the greed for desires.
On a majority of glamorous TV shows, a galaxy of showbiz stars seem to have converted Ramazan celebrations into a gala that only serves the profit-making designs of multinationals. The awards handed over to the winners are symbolic gifts. If we were to step out of our lavish studios, we would find that the real winners are those who are fasting while working hard to make ends meet.
After being crushed under the clutches of uncontrolled inflation, a large number of people – mainly those who actively used social media – ran a campaign to boycott fruits owing to the soaring prices during the start of this month. It is unfortunate that such high prices are being charged at the hands of retailers and wholesalers who themselves are Muslims. The campaign witnessed small victories in some places, with greater sensitisation on social media. However, to achieve greater success, such campaigns against mindless pricing and ever-increasing inflation need suitable frameworks to serve as a countercheck by the consumers.
Unfortunately, consumers and their rights are seldom taken into account by the czars of the commercialisation and the corporate lords. Our pricing regulators are either hand in glove with these czars or unable to exercise and maintain their writ – even in the holy month that teaches us the lesson of equality. From price control to subsidies and from open market cruelties to regulating Ramazan transmissions, all of us will have to be proactive and assertive – both as consumers and citizens – to avail the true blessings of Ramazan.
The writer is an Islamabad-based
anthropologist and analyst.