Sunday, August 4, 2013

Muslim Santa Claus Commercializes Ramadan in Pakistan

"At Christmas there's Santa Claus to give everyone gifts, it's important for Christians. For us Ramadan is a really special time so it's really important to make people happy and reward them." Aamer Liaquat Husain, Popular Televangelist and Show Host of Pakistan's GeoTV 

Aamer Liaquat Husain's Amaan Ramzan is the highest rated TV show in Pakistan. It attracts sponsor-ships and advertisements from successful companies in Pakistan which are willing to pay top dollars for a slice of its viewers' attention and business. These advertisers see the festive Ramadan and Eid season as crucial to boost their annual profits and sales.

Downplaying the commercial success of his show, Aamer Liaquat insists that "it is not commercialization, it is not showbiz. It is real Islam. I am the religious icon of television" according to an AFP report

Aamer Liaquat's show is no ordinary TV production. The show is set in a massive wedding hall at a Karachi hotel. It is bedecked with advertisements for a variety of products competing for space with pictures of camels and palm trees. Its a variety show featuring Islamic quizzes, Quran recitations, cooking, religious songs, and lots of prizes and Iftar dinner for over 500 guests, including hundreds of women and children. 

GeoTV  Host Aamer Liaquat (L) and  ARY TV Host Junaid Jamshed (R)
Prizes given away at  Geo's Amaan Ramzan show include consumer electronics, motorbikes, microwave ovens, washing machines and refrigerators. But eyebrows were raised around the world last month when Aamer Liaquat gave away an abandoned baby to a grateful childless couple on live TV. It was arranged by an NGO which insists that it followed the law. Critics called it a "publicity stunt" to boost show ratings. 

ARY TV, a competitor of Geo TV, has responded to Ramzan Aman show by its own show which features  Junaid Jamshed, a celebrity rock star who  gave up his singing career and grew a long beard as a sign of religious piety. 

Source: Aurora Magazine

Pakistan's rising middle class has helped spawn a mass media revolution in the country. It is driving consumer spending and advertising. Television ads capture 56% of total advertising revenue in Pakistan. TV ad revenue for 2011-12 added up to Rs. 21.6 billion (US $210 million), up 16% from the prior year, according to Dawn's advertising Aurora magazine. Since 1990, Pakistan's middle class has expanded by 36.5% and India's by only 12.8%, according to an ADB report titled "Asia's Emerging Middle Class: Past, Present And Future". Consumer spending in Pakistan has increased at a 26 percent average pace the past three years, compared with 7.7 percent for Asia, according to Bloomberg.  

Many in Pakistan cringe at the thought of crass commercialization of occasions like Eid and Ramadan both of which have special religious significance for Muslims. To me it is just an indication that the corporate-owned media business in Pakistan is evolving along the same commercial lines as its western counterparts have decades ago. It is, of course, a matter of grave concern to me and others who see the combined power of money and media as an unwelcome influence in shaping public opinion and government policies. 

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Rights in Ramadan

Is Ramadan a Break from Work?

Media Revolution in Pakistan

Culture of Corruption in Pakistan

Gangster Politicians of Pakistan

Gangs of Karachi

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube


Shoeib said...

This guy is anything, but religious.

Riaz Haq said...

Shoeib: "This guy is anything, but religious."

I agree. He's a successful showman and pitchman.

Sabih said...

This man has made good living out of religion!

Riaz Haq said...

Sabih: "This man has made good living out of religion!"

Aamer Liaquat Husain not the first to make money from religion.

There's a long history of people using religion to amass wealth, power and popularity.

Just look at the amount of wealth some churches have accumulated over the years. Then there are many rich televangelists with electronic churches in America who get tens of millions of dollars in donations.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan to launch Science TV channel, reports Daily Times:

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Science Club (PSC) has launched beta version of Pakistan’s first science, technology, innovation and educational television,, which will be fully functional by August 14.
Pakistan PSC President Abdul Rauf told APP that with the launch of this channel, people would be able to access significant amounts of information with reference to any topic in a short time through different programmes.
He said today television has become an important part of people’s life as a source of information, entertainment, a great tool for learning and education, and communications.
Many different programme genres have been used to address diverse audiences for a variety of formal and non-formal learning purposes with scientifically measured results, he said.
Abdul Rauf said the channel would air educational programmes in all subjects, including physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and zoology, offering an excellent opportunity for young people to learn.
“In remote villages, it will help spread education to willing students through distance learning. Educational television will educate masses on hygiene, literacy, childcare and farming methods or on any topic related to day to day happenings,” he said.
PSC President said would cover all events from Pakistan related to science and technology and educational activities.
It will also offer free online courses of web application development, DIY (do it yourself) projects, project management and other science and technology topics.
He said also has an entertainment category with science fiction movies, cartoons and science entertainment programmes.
The channel will cover science and technology educational activities in addition to popularising the subjects through disseminating the relevant information and latest progress to students and common people.
Rauf said this television channel can prove to be very useful, easy to access at anytime from anywhere and users can access a significant amount of information with reference to any topic in a short time regardless of geographic barriers, allowing them to consult different points of view as well as hands-on experience through different DIY (do it yourself) projects.
The channel will use interactive and innovative programmes for this purpose that cover topics of science, chemistry, physics, education, technology, DIY projects, e-learning, documentaries, news, interviews, events, experiments and entertainment.
“The main objective of this web TV is to promote scientific culture and the youth’s interest in science, technology and innovations. The channel would also popularise science for laymen and students, seeking to cultivate the spirit of scientific inquiry and the love of learning in its audience,” said Abdul Rauf.

Riaz Haq said...

Multiple fatwas have come out against Aamer Liaquat Husain's Amaan Ramzan show declaring it "haram" for various reasons ranging from it being "makhloot" (Co-ed) to doing "taqaddus pamal" (sacrilegious).

Khalid said...

The problem is much bigger. And here is a deeper look at it.

In the Lizard's Hole: Television, Televangelism and Muslims

Najam said...

In the whole Quran or in Ahadees,there is not a single picture or sketch.So I do not agree with those,who consider using T.V as a source for sending message of Islam

Khalid said...


This is the most common misconception and this is exactly what I have handled in my article. The whole point is that every technology has its own inclinations that make it suitable for some purposes and useless or even harmful for others. Television is a very superficial medium which is wonderful for entertainment but detrimental to serious discourse. How? Details are in my article.

Of course if you are not willing to take the time to listen to the counter argument then you can keep on repeating your own.

Rashid M. said...

In 19th century England there arose a group of people who were opposed to technology of that time. They had their reasons. But their name became a symbol for people opposing Technology.

Such people are called Luddites.

I did read Br Khalid Baig's article. ( just like I always read a lot on his blagh) Found it lacked balance. He showed all the negatives of using this medium. Where are the positives?

As usual, he was in favor of restricted access. He would like a few elite people to communicate among themselves. His greatest fear is that by including the masses there will be pollution of thought and intent.

Yes - that is very apparent. The results of misuse of the visual media is quite apparent. Nobody can deny.

This is where we need to balance the usage of a medium for good purposes. I have no doubt that good will triumph over evil. But there has to be a fight - a struggle. You can not give up the usage of this medium just because at this time, we can not see the light at the end of the tunnel. In the US, there is a big debate about guns. Some say "guns kill people". Others say "people kill people".

Riaz Haq said...

Rashid: "Such people are called Luddites"

The equivalent of 19th century English Luddite in Pakistan is "reactionary", an element within the ranks of Muslims who dismiss all new things as "innovation" or "bida"....things that are celebrated and embraced by the rest of the modern world. These reactionaries remind me of early fatwas against the use of loudspeakers and trains. I still remember the split our late NED Prof Salahuddin had with late Dr. Israr Ahmad when the good doctor prescribed dumping TV sets before he embraced the medium with alacrity.

Mujtaba said...

Well it also depend where and how it is used. I can give the example starting from self that I live in Makkah( no need to emphasize the sanctity of the place to Muslim) but I watch TV using my own discretion. My Family when in Karachi watches TV probably with no discretion!!!

I have two cousin sister one in Karachi and one is Jeddah, both houses does not have TV ,even does not get news papers!! all 8 Children are Hafiz Quran .

Now, I have two married daughter, one in Toronto and other in Detroit MI, both wear Hijab and both does not have TV in their home as they argue that it is not possible to have discretion when it comes to Children. Both are having very bright Children. The kids can use IPAD better then me at least .

They all watches what they wish on DVD or down Load educational materials from NET, Quran, other religious materials, Children do watches cartoon. So use of Technology is present in it most modern form but regulated and use of discretion.

I gave all these examples only to emphasize my point of view that nothing wrong in use but purpose must be what you want .

Riaz Haq said...

Mujtaba: "...both does not have TV in their home as they argue that it is not possible to have discretion when it comes to Children. Both are having very bright Children. The kids can use IPAD better then me at least"

It's interesting that you see an iPAD with an Internet connection as wholesome but not commercial TV channels.

Do you know that the young people today consume their entertainment mostly through the medium of Internet-connected computers rather than TV sets.

Neflix Internet channel has blurred the distinction further with Emmy award-winning shows. Emmy awards for television shows are like Oscars for movies.

Hasan said...

The difference is that TV was & is still used mainly for entertainment, while computers & internet are mainly used for propagation of knowledge. Tremendous rise in commercialization has more adversely affected TV than the internet. This is very clear in Pakistan, where the difference between the few hours broadcast of PTV in the past and the 24 hour broadcasts of more than 100 private channels today is very prominent. Also, control over the content to be viewed is better on internet than on television.

Riaz Haq said...

Hasan: "The difference is that TV was & is still used mainly for entertainment, while computers & internet are mainly used for propagation of knowledge"

The distinction between Internet and TV has already blurred in US as far as news and entertainment are concerned.

I watch streamed movies on and cricket streamed on through an Internet connection on my flat screen Samsung LED screen.

Even my mother watches Geo and ARY on a computer in her room

It'll blur in Pakistan in the next few years.

Khalid said...

It is interesting that Mujtaba's daughters in north America are maintaining television free homes.
They are not alone. Over here there is a movement that advises against the harms of television as a technology. Millions of people participate in the annual screen free week, which had started as TV-free week and evolved into screen free week as other gadgets replaced TV. I am not aware of any movement like the screen free campaign in the Muslim world.

This leads to my observation that bad Western products become worse as they are transplanted into the East. This is because the checks and safeguards (even if weak) that have been developed here are stripped as they are imported there. And our view of technology as both inevitable and good ( a mark of progress) renders any resistance or critical examination impossible.

This also applies to our Engineering education.

There are two important components of Engineering education here that are missing from the one in the Muslim world.

First, there is the concern for a broad based education. They do not want to produce one dimensional people who have a tunnel vision. They include a wide variety of subjects to broaden the horizons of the students. No doubt there are problems with their scope and content of this broad base. But the problem with our narrow base are glaring. Second, they have a course in Technology and Society offered to interested students. This deals with the impact of technology on the wider society.

We produce engineers who have no concern for and no understanding of the impact of the technologies they will develop on the society.

Our best electronic engineers can help build the network of mobile phone services without any concern for the disruptions in the society and social relations this is causing. Our best mechanical engineers can build efficient automobile assembly lines without any consideration of the nightmares of traffic jams or pollution or environmental impact of this mode of transportation. Our best engineers can build wonderful automation systems without any concern for the miseries caused by these. Sorry for the harsh assesment, but this is the unfortunate reality.

To produce a well rounded engineer, we need a healthy load of non-engineering courses in society and culture, Islamic civilization, history of technology, history of colonialism, and social, economic, religious and cultural impacts of technology in their education. Once we start thinking in these terms we'll realize the importance of strong Islamic education for all professionals.

Then we'll also realize the basic fallacies of the discussion on television.

I highly recommend Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death" to anyone who wants to understand the real issue. I read his book in 1986, shortly after it came out and as a result threw out the television from our home. Alhamdulillah we maintained a TV-free home since then. And we have been glad that we did. (Internet and mobile phones do pose a new challenge, no doubt. But life is full of struggle.)

Technology is neither inevitable, nor inevitably a mark of progress. It is a human endeavor and like all other human endeavors is a result of complex and conflicting societal forces. It gives and it takes away. And sometimes it takes away more than it gives. And it is important that we produce engineers who understand these conflicts and maneuver them in the real interest of the society.

This also means that we need to critically examine every new technology before giving it our ok. Just like they have environmental impact reports on big projects, we need social, cultural, economic and spiritual impact reports about new technology.

Are we producing engineers who could author those reports?

If we realized this, we would consider it a golden moment when our ulama said when loudspeaker was being introduced in the masjid: "Wait a minute. We need to examine it before we give it our ok."

Riaz Haq said...

Khalid: "It is interesting that Mujtaba's daughters in north America are maintaining television free homes.
They are not alone. Over here there is a movement that advises against the harms of television as a technology...."

Talking about technology and society and shunning of tv in America, there is an Amish community which still shuns televisions and telephones and travels in horse-drawn carriages. Amish men have long beards and women cover their heads. The biggest insult one Amish can inflict on another is cutting off men's beards and women's hair. There have been several instances of it resulting in clashes.

Going back in history, it was the industrial revolution that created technology that led to the ascendance of the West and the colonization of the East. It marked the beginning of a major shift in economic, military and political power from East to West.

Resisting technology will maintain the status quo with the West lording over the Muslim world.

For those curious about the Amish way of life, here's a interesting link:

BTW, they also shun electricity and photography and quit school after 8th grade education.

Hopewins said...

^^RH: "Resisting technology will maintain the status quo with the West lording over the Muslim world"

It's not just the West.

If the current rate of violence, chaos, economic instability continues for 10-20 years more, even the Buddhist/Hindu world will be lording it over the Muslim world.

Egypt is crumbing.
Syria is in civil war.
Libya is facing lawlessness.
Bahrain faces a Shia uprising.
UAE faces a banking crisis.
Iraq is being suicide-bombed.
Turkey is sitting on a debt bomb.
Iran is aging under sanctions
Pakistan is Terrorism Central.

In 20 years, the Muslim World may wind up as the most BACKWARD region, with even Congo surpassing us.

We are very close to TOTAL failure.

Riaz Haq said...

HWJ: "We are very close to TOTAL failure."

Who's "we"?

If it means Muslims, then all the available credible data shows that "we" are not shunning technology. In fact, Muslim nations are way ahead in the use of technology than the vast majority of "BRIC" population.

Even the Al Qaeda terrorists are prolific users of technology.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Dawn story on how people meters skew media coverage in Pakistan:

IT was some time in the first half of 2009 that I got a call from my director news telling me that the newsroom was now looking for more stories from the city of Faisalabad because the people meter, the ratings tool, had just been installed in that city.

For the first time, ratings were going to be reported from Faisalabad, and all the channels were rushing to up their coverage of stories from the city so as to capture the ratings that were going to be reported from there.

So suddenly the bureau chiefs in Faisalabad started to come under pressure to increase their story counts.

Anyone who has ever worked in television news knows how reporters and bureau chiefs complain about how their area gets neglected by the folks in the newsroom, how they bring in all these wonderful stories but the folks in the newsroom don’t run them.

This time, however, suddenly the tables were turned. Faisalabad had been a bit of a backwater in the news business until then, with small bureaus and small staffs and a trickle of news coming out occasionally that held any interest outside the city.

But suddenly, there was an inordinate amount of interest in news from the city, and bureaus found themselves inundated with demands for packages and news and what we used to call ‘chunks’ in the parlance of our rundown producers at the time.

And this is what happened. All the reporters worked their contacts for news and sound bites and other tidbits. Almost all of them started reporting the same story: Faisalabad was experiencing large spells of load-shedding, and power loom owners were protesting outside the offices of the Faisalabad Electric Supply Company (Fesco).

There’s no news like live news, and almost instantly the orders came from the newsroom to send a DSNG van to the site of the protests and prepare for a live uplink.

For the first time, Faisalabad saw itself live on air on the major channels, and very quickly the size of the protests swelled. As the numbers grew, so did the amplitude, and very quickly tyres were brought out to be burned.

Burning tyres make for great footage, there’s fire and smoke and commotion all around them, and if you position the camera right, you can catch pictures of huge columns of smoke rising above an agitating mob. The newsrooms loved it, and the more they stayed live on scene, the more agitated the scene became.

The whole thing ended with the mob storming the Fesco offices. The anchors screamed about a crisis brewing in the city, as the screen showed looped footage of a mob smashing windows and chasing Fesco staff. That night the talk shows were abuzz as opposition politicians railed at the government for allowing matters to come to this.

“I saw someone there beating an electric pole with a stick!” shouted one fellow on a talk show. “That’s how mad people are over there! Good thing you weren’t there sir,” he taunted the government representative on the show, “else it would’ve been you they would’ve been beating with that stick!”

Faisalabad was propelled into the national news flow very suddenly, and the immediate arrival of the television spotlight had a very damaging impact on that city initially.
The power riot found no such national leadership, only sporadic and very opportunistic local leaders who were easily co-opted or sidelined, and therefore has largely vanished from the scene. In the final days of the interim government, load-shedding had hit a peak never before seen in the country, but the streets by and large remained calm.

The media’s mirror is a dangerous tool. It reflects the reality it sees, but reflects it selectively. The television spotlight can illuminate, but it can also incinerate the reality upon which it is trained.

Riaz Haq said...

In the first batch of ratings for the month of Ramadan from Pakistan, ARY Digital has been crowned the clear leader.
According to Medialogic data for Females CnS (calculated 15 minute time-bands), ARY Digital grabbed 1285 GRPs in the first ten days of Ramadan.
Express Entertainment boasted of 1230 GRPs, while Hum TV was a distant third with 559 GRPs.
In further good news for ARY Digital, its gameshow ‘Jeeto Pakistan’ raked in 8.62 TRPs between 19:30 and 22:00 on Wednesday 9th July. During the same period, Express Entertainment was second with 5.18 TRPs, A Plus in third with 2.13 TRPs and Urdu 1 in fourth with 1.43 TRPs. In the UK, ‘Jeeto Pakistan’ is aired at 20:30 on ARY Digital.

- See more at:

Riaz Haq said...

BBC News - #Pakistan fashion enters #London spotlight with new #EidCollection

Dozens of Pakistani designers have been showcasing their latest trends in a Pakistan Fashion Week event in London.
Hundreds attended the two day event, spending thousands of pounds on the latest trends ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid next month.