The recent on-air conversion of a young Hindu man to Islam on a private TV channel in Pakistan has again stripped the clerical segment of Pakistani society of the hypocrisy it has been blasted for numerous times already. Besides making it an item of public entertainment, the incident defines the level of bigotry a TV channel would indulge in so as to win applause from the fundamentalist mindset.
The show, hosted by Maya Khan (who was fired from another channel earlier this year for stirring controversy by prying into people’s privacies on camera), had a group of Muslims of various ages, being entertained by the host who then announced the “big moment” of 20-year-old Sunil’s conversion to Islam. A cleric led the process during which Sunil’s stammering and failing to pronounce the Arabic terms were plain obvious. What followed was even more ludicrous: the boy’s name was changed upon the host’s suggestion to a Muslim name. And it was the presiding cleric who gave him a Muslim name.
The irony of the scene played obtrusively on the TV screen; a guy who couldn’t choose his name was “allowed” to choose a new religion. But things wouldn’t be so bad if the double standards weren’t there among these Muslim zealots. Not going far in the past, as Sunil’s conversion was being hailed, a Muslim couple reverting to Christianity was under life threats – and continues to be so – because they had dared leave Islam. No support has been shown for this Christian couple; instead a vengeful cleric was quoted saying that these ought to be put to death for becoming murtad (apostates). How do they reconcile this “killer” attitude with the “felicitator” role for the same act, i.e. change of religion?
The answer is simple, and shameless, namely that entering Islam is a one-way passage and if you feel that you have taken the wrong turn, or been raised the wrong way, it is too late to change your course. The fact that Pakistan still hasn’t constitutionally adopted the fundamentalist Islamic law reflects the bright side of this state which, unlike some fundamentalist Muslim states, has retained a progressive segment which comes into action against such atrocities against humanity. But the clerical segment’s open or covert support for the fanatical apostasy ruling in Islam is a sign of the constant presence of a dictatorial group which is lurking for preying on those who have the courage to stand for their right to choose their belief system.