By Dr. Phyllis Chesler
Pakistani Muslim Bollywood actress, Veena Malik, her actor husband, Asad Bashir Khan, the owner of the country’s largest media group plus the show’s host and two guests were all sentenced to 26 years in prison for “blasphemy.”
How was “blasphemy” defined?
Malik and her real husband apparently danced and sang as they re-enacted their wedding accompanied by Sufi musicians in a song long associated with the marriage of the prophet Mohammed’s daughter.
While Malik believes that they will be exonerated by a higher court, I am not sure I agree with her.
Earlier this month, a professor, Shafiul Islam, was hacked to death in Bangladesh because he held liberal views and banned the burqa in his classroom at Rajshahi University. The victim, Islam, was also a Baul, a member “of a group of mystic minstrels from a variety of religious traditions, mostly Sufi Muslims and Hindus who celebrate celestial love through music, transcending differences of belief.”
Are we looking at a Sunni war against Sufi Muslims and their music? Perhaps. A hard-line Sunni cleric, Himayatullah Khan is the man who originally filed these charges.
Are we perhaps looking at a power struggle between the Pakistani military and GEO TV? Perhaps.
But we are also looking at how a woman is viewed who becomes a popular and purposely “sexy” actress. This, in and of itself, is already a risky career choice for a South East Asian Muslim woman to have. Malik is also an actress known for exciting controversy. She has posed nearly nude, modestly covering her most tabooed parts with her arms—and sporting nothing but a tattoo of the Pakistani Secret Service.
Malik is not a cowering, terrorized, or “hidden” woman. She is not veiled. She seduces with her face, her body, her dancing, her acting. She is part of an industry that is perceived as grossly secular, Western, and licentious.
Such a woman has, by definition, committed “blasphemy” by daring to associate herself in any way with the women of Mohammed’s family. Conservative regional judge, Shabaz Khan clearly thought so. Judge Khan also fined them who sentenced her and all those who enabled her.
Luckily, the “convicts” are all out of Pakistan. It is also doubtful that this sentence will be applied everywhere in Pakistan. However, Judge Khan ordered them all to pay 1.3 million Pakistani rupees, sell their properties and surrender their passports.
If I were Malik, I would remain away from Pakistan indefinitely.