Men will be men and Nouman Ali Khan

The social media is abuzz with, actually scratch that, ironically, the social media is not as abuzz as it would be if the incident surrounded a woman. Let’s say there is a lot of discussion on the social media after the screenshots of WhatsApp and Messenger conversations allegedly between Pakistani-American Islamic cleric Nouman Ali Khan, his wife and female students made rounds online. In some exchanges, he is allegedly seen even threatening the women with a lawsuit and allegedly asking her wife to lie. The interactions deemed inappropriate, explicit and abuse of authority to say the least are being widely circulated on the internet.

While the preacher has called for “theatre-free investigation” of the allegations, he has not denied the authenticity of the screenshots, some of which, show him sending shirtless pictures. On the contrary, he insists the conversation was taking place between consenting adults and there was nothing inappropriate, adding that he was merely interacting with “prospects” for remarriage.

In the discussion on the internet, there are some who are mocking him and highlighting “humourous” side of it with terms like “halal nudes”, “sharia compliant sexting” etc, while the majority of people, mostly men, are standing up in “support” and “solidarity” with Nouman Khan. The arguments offered by those supporting the cleric look like “it’s his private matter”, “nothing wrong in courting women”, and the most bizarre of all “men will be men”. Then there are a handful of those who are questioning the hypocrisy of those responding to the whole event. Especially the male privilege side of it.

Those calling out on hypocrisy might be less in number but their argument carries a lot of weight. The rules are different when it comes to women while men are spared and let off the hook. Incidentally, the Nouman Ali Khan’s episode has taken place only a couple of days after Mahira Khan’s picture smoking cigarette with Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor got leaked online and attracted wrath of the same social media users who weren’t willing to extend the same courtesy of “it’s her life” to her. Keep in mind that Mahira Khan’s wasn’t even an “incident” but even if you wanna call it that, it isn’t even remotely comparable to what this cleric has done. But what makes the two comparable is reaction of the public. The reaction of the moral police and self-righteous brigade online, which seems to be in majority, has helped us establish the hypocrisy when it comes to reacting to something involving a man as opposed to a woman.

It goes one step further if the person they are defending is not just any man but also a religious cleric. Then many would go to extra length to defend their actions as we have seen many doing in the case of Nouman Ali Khan. If you don’t believe me, let me remind you Nouman Ali Khan’s isn’t the only incident involving an Islamic cleric. Have you forgotten UK-based cleric Hamza Ali Tzortzis was on the Ashley Madison website – marketed officially as a dating website for people who are married or in relationships – when it was hacked and had its data leaked online? Tzortzis denied the report saying that he was hacked. But, there wasn’t half as much an uproar and everybody jumped in to “conceal weaknesses” of your “fellow Muslim brothers”. Now, over two years later, nobody even remembers it.

Remember that? Maulana Tariq Jamil was seen personally standing up for Junaid Jamshed and begging for forgiveness with tears in his eyes when JJ was accused of blasphemy but Maulana did not extend the same courtesy to Shaista Lodhi and Veena Malik when they were framed for the same.

So yes. Even though another Islamist cleric Navaid Ali has confirmed the allegations against Nouman Ali Khan are “verified”, let’s pretend it never happened and give our “brother” a chance. He’s Nou-man after all and as the saying goes “men will be men”, he is bound to play around and be forgiven for it while the women involved will be asked to make the ultimate compromises. Let’s help our “brother” by looking for another target and then all the heat will be off him. We won’t even remember this in a few days.

Originally published in a Pakistani daily, Daily Times.

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