Saturday, October 26, 2013

Ansar Abbasi is a conservative hack and Pervez Hoodbhoy should not have engaged with him...

by Salman Hameed

More than ten years ago, talk shows on new private television channels in Pakistan were a breath of fresh air. For the first time, you could hear multiple opinions on all sorts of topics. The quality of those early talk shows was often quite good. But then, the open format of talk shows became more and more chaotic. If the guests themselves would not get into a verbal fight, the anchors would often egg them on. It was all good for rating.

Pervez Hoodbhoy (full disclosure that he is a good friend of mine) is often on the talk shows to present the increasingly limited liberal views. You pick a topic: Minority rights, blasphemy law, issue of problematic contents in textbooks, or even in the sad saga of the claim of the miraculous "water-kit" - a water-powered car that would solve all of Pakistan's energy crisis. As you can imagine, Pervez's positions are not the crowd pleasers.

So now we have this episode where Pervez and a journalist Ansar Abbasi got into a verbal fight. It is awful! I think both of them are way way out of line. This is not the way to have a conversation - and Ansar Abbasi kept calling Pervez a "Jahil" - a particularly pejorative term for an ignorant (in fact, he kept on saying that how come they let this jahil let teach in a college). Pervez walked out after that. The three minute brouhaha is below.

But let me just contextualize Abbasi a bit. Ansar Abbasi is the journalist who complained that the new 10th grade Urdu textbook (Punjab Board) does not contain sufficient Islam references. Oh but in his Urdu column, he argues that this was a conspiracy to impose secularization by the Punjab government (curious note: the government in Punjab is Pakistan Muslim League - which is to the "right" of a considerably conservative political center). Pervez called him out on this past April:
At the outset, one needs to know that the withdrawn book was intended solely for the teaching of Urdu as a language, and should be judged on these grounds alone. Any book for teaching a language must introduce the student to great poets and essayists and delve into linguistic nuances and subtleties. It should not be just a supplementary text for teaching Islamic studies. Students use an entire, separate book for Islamiat. 
This episode is important for only one reason: the new Urdu reader represented an attempt, albeit a feeble one, to remove the blinkers forced upon students by General Ziaul Haq’s education fantasia. The 1980s Islamisation of education meant that every subject — languages, geography, history, social studies, chemistry, physics, mathematics, etc. — could only be viewed through a narrow prism. All else was to be shunned and filtered out. It is this attempt to break loose that Mr Abbasi finds so terribly objectionable.
And now Ansar Abbasi has gone after Malala (and a tamer version in English). For what? Amongst other things, he is hurt that Malala is too soft on Salman Rushdie (she argues for freedom of speech while disagreeing with the contents of Satanic Verses, more particularly she says: "‘Is Islam such a weak religion that it cannot tolerate a book written against it? Not my Islam!”"), she talks about the rights of Ahamadis, the problems with the blasphemy law, that Pakistan lost three wars with India (which is a factual statement accepted everywhere in the world except in Pakistan's textbooks), etc. etc. Oh wait. And the horror of it all for Abbasi: She criticized Pakistan's brutal military dictator from the 1980s, General Zia ul Haq, and his "Islamization" policies that Pakistan is still dealing with. The problem is that Abbasi is a fan of Zia - and Malala's criticism of his hero really crosses him.

It is in the context of the recent Abbasi's column on Malala and the prior history of Hoodbhoy-Abbasi interaction that you should view this altercation on this "talk-show". Abbasi's regressive and often offensive views are still no excuse for Pervez to engage in this manner. This is wrong. Period. You will also notice that the anchor is simply sitting there and enjoying the fight. Shame on him as well (Fox News has nothing on these guys...). It is painful, but if you can stomach it, here is the clip:


Naveed said...

This was really painful to watch, Hoodbhoy should not have engaged with him. There is nothing to gain.

Zaeem said...

Orya Maqbool and Ansar Abbassi will have a field day in their columns and show this altercation as the liberal secular mindset. Its sad indeed.

Samir Ali said...

Where is the debate on education and sanity sinking to. The content of Malala's book was totally ignored by the two arch conservatives who fired their salvos on minorities and pandered to the lowest common denominator using the occasion to become champions of the far right in Pakistan.

Salman Hameed has presented a very objective analysis of the Abbas Ansari vs Pervez Hoodbhoy battle of words which must be contained before it becomes lethal

Fareed Khan said...

There was one time when i thought Orya Maqbool Jan was a very intelligent and learned Person. But recently - i don't know since the past elections i watched few shows with him about the Malala issue and his opinions really don't make any sense anymore.
I didn't expect much from Ansar Abassi anyway.

Telling someone on the face that you are a liar is i guess still acceptable (as long as one can prove it) - as compared to telling someone that you are a ignorant/illitrate and sheer unethical and unprofessional.

As far the issue concerning the book, i mean ok let's suppose it is full of content that supposidly hurts the feelings of the People of Pakistan - rational beahaviour i guess would be to just state the facts and let People judge it. E.g. one issue being not adding PBUH - it should be added whenever the name Mohammad (PBUH) is stated but knowing the fact that it is the so called west that wrote the script - they still added the word Prophet in front of it. So if they didn't add the Abbreviation after the name is Ansar Abbasi going to sue the Publisher or even Malala for not adding it???

Salman Hameed said...

I didn't know much about Orya Maqbool. But thanks to Zakir Thaver, now I know:


There should be at least one private channel in Pakistan that does not tow the line to the conservatives. Please??

Anonymous said...

To fresh the memory of my fellow countrymen, these pseudo-intellectuals especially Orya have criticized the liberal political opinion for sometime even knowing that every political step in short history of Pakistan was backed by religion and rightist emotions. From the infamous Qarardad-e-Maqasid to doctrine of necessity, from capping Presidency/prime minister offices for muslim-only to declaring Ahmadis Kafir, all decisions were forced by the right wing of national politics. One can easily claim that all problems faced by Pakistan were created by losers like Orya and Ansar Abbasi. In fact they don't even represent a thinking pattern, they represent a set of beliefs on how to run affairs despite such dose has proven catastrophic for this nation. They are mindless xenophobic. They don't even have moral standing such as Orya who wrote a column on Swat flogging where he took a stance that the video was fake, but when the evidences and victim surfaced, he had no moral courage to write on his incorrect analogy.

Same with Ansar who once replied a fellow guest who was of the view that censor should be a private matter, Ansar however rejected it utmost and called for censorship be more restricted, but when he was asked about his family, he said his kids were pious muslims because he managed it well. so obviously he accepted the original notion of fellow guest. despite that he stubbornly continued his rants, such a hypocrite.

Pervez sahab is highly distinguish intellectual, one of the few in this country of God. No matter what others perceive of him, he will remain ray of hope for all of us.

Political discussions said...

You should listen to what kamran shahid has said later about that wordy fight.

Salman Hameed said...

I actually agree with some of Kamran Shahid's assessment. I watched the whole show and I did find that Pervez Hoodbhoy first provoked both Ansar Abbasi and Orya Maqbool liars ("jhoot bol rahay hain") - and then things quickly went downhill from there. I don't think there is an excuse for that. This does not mean that Ansar Abbasi is not a conservative hack, but here the provocation first came from Pervez.

And this is the unfortunate part. This took away focus from the abhorrent comments of Abbasi and Maqbool towards Malala. That should have been the focus.

Ratnam said...

Before I provide my comments I would like to state that I admire Dr. Hoodbhoy. He is a scientist, a scholar, and a formidable intellect. He is among Pakistan's best and brightest.

That said, I was greatly pained to watch this altercation. It was painful because I can understand the extent to which Dr. H was gaoded so that he lashed out in this manner. The remark that he made (and which seems to have gotten peoples goat) is the statement that Abbasi was a liar. This is perhaps not fair, but it is far less insulting than being called ignorant and illiterate. An assertion that I, and most others will find, ludicrous.

Let us grant that Dr Hoodbhoy is as human as the next person. On this occasion he lost his calm and reacted badly. We all do at some time or the other. On most occasions that I have heard him, he is remarkably cool, level-headed, and rational. So, let us grant him a bad day. On the other hand, and forgive me for being biased, the religious bigots never have an off day. They are always spouting venom, even against a teenage girl. At least Dr. Hoodbhoy is on the right side. I applaud him for it.

Salman Hameed said...


Well said.

Unknown said...

It is really awful saying ignorant to pervaiz hoodby by Ansar Abbassi the most extremist columnist and most favorite writer of taliban.On the other hand Pervaiz Hoodbye is hero of Pakistan and representing the our beloved country image whole over the world by delivering the lectures on Physics.While Ansar Abbasi representing the Taliban thinking in his columns. He and Orya Maqbool both are conservative writers and favors the butchers(Taliban)Islam . All Pakistanis betterly know the barbarism of Taliban.We must say that if Dr.Hoodby is ignorant in the eyes of extremist ansar abbasi than he is Abu Jahel because he favors such peoples who are open enemies of Islam ,Muslims and humanity and give the message of barbarism to the whole world declare themselves the jehadies.These we also the qualities of Abu Jahel.

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