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Hamza Ali Abbasi in Uncharted Waters

A character that would probably never cease to amuse or confuse us, Hamza Ali Abbasi, sometimes seems to be the human embodiment of the ideological divergences of the party that he supports, the PTI. He is often obscure, sometimes even self-contradicting and often plain annoying for people like me, but no matter how one may perceive his opinion, he definitely is genuine.  But the matter at hand is not another bothersome Facebook post where he stands with one foot on the left and the other foot on the far right side of the political spectrum, the controversy for the ‘Pyary Afzal’ star is much more alarming this time, as he raised the question of the legitimacy of the state’s power to decide the religious status of Ahmadi’s in Pakistan on-air in his Ramazan transmission.

Hamza, in presence of his learned guests, boldly began the conversation with the revelation that he plans to talk about two highly sensitive topics, the Ahmadi community and the Blasphemy law, but he claims that the channel’s authorities have asked him to postpone that show till the final Ramazan transmission. He continues to share his “sad story” about how he is accused of being an Ahmadi himself, if he merely asks people to stop their slaughter. Finally, he poses the real question to all three of the people before him:

“Whether or not the state has the right to categorize someone as Muslim or Non-Muslim?”

As anyone could have expected, the defiant question from the TV star garnered hugely mixed response on his social media accounts, specifically on Facebook, where he was praised from Popular Activist Jibran Nasir and other activists along with a large segment of like-minded people. On the other hand, he has already started receiving threats online, with various fundamentalists and conservative groups posting material specifically to threaten and target Hamza, and instigating others to attack him.

Some of the mixed responses:

And among various posts supporting and condemning his words, there were comments with vile expletives which probably the staunch religious opponents of Hamza had written while fasting, expressing their level of ‘self-control’, which it is supposed to teach them.

And then there were posts like these:

All of this making some people worry whether the ever controversial star might be able to complete (or survive) his 30 days of Ramazan transmission or not.

Though he pushed a perilous debate, he took on a pattern which was almost expected of him. In his most recent video on his Facebook page, he explains “regarding the noise being raised about me questioning the state’s power in declaring a group of people Muslim or Non-Muslim, in my show.”
He continues, “This is not the actual debate. The debate is, if they are Non-Muslims living in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, do they have any rights?”
“If they are Non-Muslims like Hindus and Christians”, he goes on to ask, “I can appear on media and talk about the Hindu community or the Pakistani Christian community, but why can’t I talk about the Pakistani Ahmadi community?”
Though Hamza is still maneuvering through a mine field, he seems to have deviated from the original debate that he had initiated on the legitimacy of the state’s authority in determining the religious identity of a group or individual. Whether, deliberately, under pressure or by habit, he is letting go the original string of the debate but taking another and important stand point, asking for the rights and protection of the Ahmadis, irrespective of their constitutional-religious status.

Although this course of action was not unprecedented, nor was it unexpected from Hamza’s characteristic and often contradictory style, his retraction of his initial question entirely, resulted in the usual confusion. Jibran Nasir responded, summing it up on his Facebook:

Never the less, which ever topic he chooses to pursue, he will have to face dire adversity and may have to pay a great cost, just for the sake of a ‘debate’, where most religious scholars remain hesitant towards dialogues such as these (as many of them have to concentrate on different wife-beating techniques) giving room for their fanatic followers to lynch virtually anyone they disagree with. Let’s all pray Hamza gets through this retaining a singular opinion and more importantly, his life.

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Hasnat Sheikh is a civil society activist and a freelance writer based in Azad Kashmir. He is passionate about minority rights, poverty alleviation and the Kashmir cause.




    June 15, 2016 at 9:54 am

    wait a second. why are you calling him confused and contradictory, just because he refuses to be put into a certain box of labels? So he is not free to pick and choose among the hundreds of standpoints that any given topic can raise in people? He is a nationalist, believes in Pakistan’s prospects, does not like foreign interference, hates religious and all other kinds of intolerance, believes in women rights, does not like women objectification, believes in individual freedom, does not like people who are blatantly pro-west often at the cost of berating Pakistan. What is contradictory about it?
    I believe in women equality and that women should be free, completely free to make whatever decisions they want to about their lives, without fearing prosecution. But I also hate women objectification on TV, i do not think that in order to be free, a woman should be forced to shun her traditions, if that’s what she wants to do. I hate foreign interference and I hate Pakistanis who berate their country just to appear westernized. I also think that there is a LOT wrong in Pakistan and we should rectify it.
    I do not understand homosexuality, and unless I am hundred percent sure what is Islam’s stance on it, I’m holding my tongue, but I believe that people are free to pick who they want to love. They should not be killed or prosecuted for that. Even if it is haram in Islam, it is between Allah and the person. Let Allah judge them.
    This is all the same bakwas I went through when I decided that I do not believe in everything my Shia parents did. I also do not understand how a lot of Sunnis are not familiar with Ahl e Bayt, and instead of choosing which side to support, I have picked up my own things from both and I follow that. How is that confusing? How is that not freedom to choose?



    July 25, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article!
    It is the little changes that produce the most
    significant changes. Many thanks for sharing!


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