Earlier today news broke about a #metoo incident in Pakistani media. The first of its kind for Pakistan.
The alleged villain: Ali Zafar.
The alleged victim of abuse: Meesha Shafi.
I know and have little affinity for either “celebrity”. The entire concept of “celebrity” is utterly lost on me but that’s a topic for another day! This is just my disclaimer that I am impartial, I don’t know either of their work in the remotest of senses and the first I saw of this news was in the form of a tweet from an Egyptian activist and writer who I follow on twitter:
If you are really interested in tabloid gossip, you can go to both parties’ twitter pages to read their respective statements (I confess I did). My problem is less with what one has alleged and the other defended but the weighing of judgement from completely uninvolved-twitter-scrolling passers-by. It’s the comments section beneath each statement that gives rise to plentiful concern. It’s the idle gossip in communities and gossip magazines about people who play no part in our day to day lives except that they live inside the public eye.
Few seem to question what are “these incidences”, that Meesha alleges? Many seem to swiftly believe everything written, either for or against one side and frequently one-upmanship ensues in a twitter battle that demonstrates little except who is more controlled by their nafs (ego) and therefore must brazenly defend their opinions to the bitter end. Facts, evidence, justice and due process are child’s play. Here are two statements, I’ll select the victim as being the one that represents my gender. I’m a woman so I will support the female version of events.
It sounds insane but this is what many comments reveal is the status quo. Both men and women alike are guilty of this gender bias. But true feminism is about protecting both gender’s rights and justice means someone is innocent until proven guilty.
I am a woman but I worry about my brothers and sisters in equal measure; I cannot ‘carte blanche’ accept anything a woman says just because I am one.
Belonging to a specific gender doesn’t mean you defend them without complete sense or understanding. If this were the way the world worked, then surely, I could only be best friends with someone whose favourite colour was also forest green and someone who loved pandas more than any other creature in the animal kingdom. I actually hate it when people are the same as me. Variety is the spice of life but again I digress, and that’s a topic I’ve already written about here.
Your gender association does not predetermine the correctness of something. The human condition is governed by its control over its nafs (ego/desires). Your ability to speak the truth is not predicated on your gender but on the condition of your heart.
It may well be that Ali Zafar is guilty of sexual misconduct just as it may well be that Meesha Shafi is guilty of slander and embellishment or fabrication of the truth. The truth is we will never know because we know neither person nor were we privy to their professional or personal relationship. This is perhaps why I posit that breaking the silence around this discussion is not actually helping anyone. It doesn’t actually benefit the victim of abuse or slander, it certainly doesn’t benefit us as onlookers.
Justice should be reserved for a system which is qualified, impartial and equipped to handle it and twitter is not such a place.
This isn’t about a battle between genders but holding ourselves to account regardless of the gender that we associate with and a reminder that Twitter is not a Supreme Court of Justice where airing such grievances will garner anything except foul, ignorant opinions to both parties involved from people whose opinions are irrelevant in the administration of justice.
Making noise, causing uproar, participating in amateur social media theatrics in practice generates little positive impact, regardless of whether your intentions are pure.
Some fellow female Pakistani celebrities have come out in support of Meesha’s accusations claiming she is courageous and brave for raising her voice. That may well be so, I cannot dispute that, not least because the poor woman has faced a barrage of ugly comments from many twitter trolls.
But equally brave are the women who hold their silence, get on with their lives and create a positive movement for justice outside the twitter courtrooms, leaving karmic retribution to work its magic on the perpetrators of their oppression and abuse.
Constantly people are saying that this #metoo movement is giving women the confidence they need to speak out; but what exactly does breaking this ‘culture of silence’ achieve?
Admittedly, the hope is obvious: if sexual misconduct is not publicised, certain men will continue to harass women as a pastime; a sport. But what about the ridicule victims of sexual harassment face from trolls on Twitter? What about the ridicule victims of slander face from trolls on Twitter? Who is the real victim that needs justice, God only knows and if you have faith, you wouldn’t need to bring in a Twitter jury to fan the flames of injustice but would have tawwakul (trust) in His justice; what goes around comes around.
I always feel incredibly uncomfortable when I read such news in my feed and I am reminded of this quote of the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him):
“Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him.”
[Tirmidhi and Hadith 12 of Imam Nawawi’s 40 Hadith]