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July 17, 2022

We have lost the ability to argue logically and in a sustained manner and the constant referral to a text or the act of a personage is meant to puta spin of a preferred interpretation and offering it as divine sanction

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t is not rare that the advertisements shown these days have visuals inserted, lyrics and compositions played or overlapped with the product being offered for sale. Even the holy text is not spared; its use in the selling of values, ideas, policies and products is quite widespread.Usually these compositions or verses or even visuals are meant for something that was not supposed to be trivialised or flaunted as a means to promote a product, an individual or a political stance.

Due to strictures about music, many differentiations have been created in our cultural history and recitation of the “hamd” and “naat” have been called “parhna” while the rendition of the qawwali is “karna” to create a separation between this and gaana. In all these forms certain compositions have travelled generations to be identified as such to offer a cultural bonding of sorts.

These overlaps become more imminent, pressing, repetitive and ongoing when an occasion like Eid arrives. Glued to the sets or the mobile phones the chant seems endless, the quotation and the references cited without any ethical framework forever. There is almost no intellectual copyright that saves the texts and the individuals being exploited for immediate worldly gains in touting the superiority of the one over the other. In these days of the mass electronic and social media with the phone being in almost every palm, the difference is not even being noticed, even less registered as the lines that were drawn between the sacred and the profane, the venerated and the mundane have been erased. While watching the content in quick sequence, the most lurid and the most divine over vault and coexist. It was not so long ago that the two were placed in separate sections.It took some inner struggle to physically and mentally jumps over the red line.

But now it is all grist to the mill of the market or the media outlets, both formal and informal, and scrolling the vile and the pornographic from the worthwhile and holy is not even given a second thought.

This could be an indication of the times that we are living in –even in the political sphere the slander is dominatingly overriding the necessity to base it on truth.The need to fact-check is becoming dimmer, almost archaic. The alleged is taken as fait accompli, the more it is drummed, the more solid it gets, cemented as truth that cannot be hidden, erased or removed. It becomes like the proverbial heavy millstone hung round the neck, and forever.

It may appear inappropriate for someone from my generation and almost galling to those older than me to find a verse of the scripture being overplayed to sell a product. The use, and an ever-growing one, is of not quoting the entire text, or a composition but only bits and pieces that suit the immediate purpose as the pulling it out of its context and making it appropriate is one of the patents of this new age communication pattern. It is done with impunity and without batting an eyelid.

Religion is mouthed more than ever before in our society so it is not a surprise that the quotes from the texts, held most venerable by the followers are commercially and politically exploited the most. This reductionist exercise is being repeated more and more and it seems that there is not a moment gone that it is mouthed in support, either by the individuals or those selling an ideology or thrusting down a political position.

The sacred texts are not spared, the heroes and the founding fathers fare no better. Their names too are tossed around and used for any act, or thought or plan and it seems that the selling of the product is supposed to realise the dreams of their vision of independence and a community. All as qualified freedoms.

Could there be an intellectual property right to safeguard not only the economic exploitation or use but also to discourage the dragging down of these even for the most vile and evil words and deeds? There has to be some kind of a copyright clause to save the sacred from being delivered for the most mundane as well as individuals being dragged into the pushover acts of today.

Pakistanis have lost the ability to argue logically and in a sustained manner and the constant referral to a text or the act of a personage is meant to puta spin of a preferred interpretation and offering it as divine sanction.

We are just short of these individuals being simulated to be eating ice creams, using a certain cooking oil and favouring a packet of chips. This country was not founded for everything to be thrown in to keep the kiln of self-interest firing.


The author is a culture critic based in Lahore



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