It didn't take Armeena Khan a very long time in the industry for her to discover the drawbacks of being a public figure in Pakistan. However, she refuses to succumb to that ugly reality and instead wants to hit back at online trolls and expose their own hypocrisy.
The latest episode involves Khan, a follower who refers to herself as an "empowered Muslimah", and her rude comment. Khan was recently awarded the certificate for outstanding public service by outgoing Burnley mayor Lord Wajid Khan. She celebrated the accomplishment by uploading pictures online. Her fans were delighted, but many people were very critical of her.
And as we will soon learn, Khan is apparently not very proficient in the "art of taking criticism".
Once the news was reported in the media, it was met with an unwarranted and distasteful uproar. The problem people picked out, as they generally do with women in Pakistan, was her clothes. Her dress and stockings triggered alarm bells and Khan wasn't having any of it.
She lashed out at her haters, saying, "I don’t understand why these nationalists, right wingers and religious fanatics lecture me. For the last time, I do not represent you and my journey is personal."
For some odd reason, it is a commonly held belief among Pakistanis that public figures practically hand out their lives to the public, warranting all sorts of nasty comments and unsolicited advice. It makes no sense, and we have no idea where this idea originates from, but it has found a warm home on the internet where such sentiments quickly mount up to become abuse and toxicity.
Her tweet retaliating against the internet's attacks was met with — wait for it — more such attacks. Khan, was still not having any of it.
"People harassing women and girls especially on my timelines will be reported to the police," she hit back, stressing the need to protect the vulnerable online.
Among the responses to her tweet was one that Khan felt should be singled out and addressed properly.
Khan shared the comment to her Instagram, saying "I've had these sort of commentary before, it does not faze me." Though saying she had to single this one comment out, as the user claims to work for a platform called "Empowered Muslimah" where they counsel women for their problems. "Is this the best we have to offer?" she asked.
The comment perpetuates the same commonly held beliefs that working in Pakistan somehow makes it "obligatory to respect the country, culture, media and audiences." It goes onto call Khan a foolish actress who lacks something called the "art of taking criticism".
Khan wasn't done yet though. She continued.
"Remember, a personal attack is not criticism no matter how you wrap it up," she said, creating an important distinction.
She stated she has worked in Canada, the UK, and Pakistan, but never full time. Regardless, she said she failed to understand how she's supposed to "accept vicious attacks, subservience, and misogyny" because she worked in a particular country for some time.
Make it make sense, essentially.
She stressed the need for boundaries to be set with people like the user in question, a user that claims to work in women empowerment. "Criticising a woman for her choices when you're in the business of 'empowering' is just absolutely ludicrous," she said.
Then she said something we wish more Pakistani celebrities said more often to hate mongers: "You do not get to dictate a fully grown adult and then patronise her."
For as simple a concept as that, we sure do struggle to understand it.
Just to make sure the user wasn't let off easy, Khan took one final swing at her with her own words.
Hopefully others will pick up on some of the very reasonable and yet revolutionary ideas Khan has floated. We need to establish a boundary in public life, putting yourself out there to entertain people does not mean you are inviting them to say all sort of garbage about you, and it absolutely does not justify their hate — nothing does.