Will the media industry finally boycott Khalilur Rehman over his insensitive comments on Noor's murder?
There's not much left to say about Khalilur Rehman Qamar that hasn't already been said. The crux of the matter is that he says shockingly outrageous and insulting things and gets away with it because the people who matter aren't willing to call him out. Dozens of celebrities have called him out but hundreds more would jump at the chance to be in a drama written by him and that's the root of the problem.
Our celebrities might like posting messages of activism on their Twitter or Instagram pages but most of them rarely call out a man who has been toxic and vile in his description of women.
Qamar's latest insensitive rant on social media was about Noor Mukadam; to put his words as tactfully as possible, he questioned the timing of Noor's horrendous murder — one that has shaken society to its core — and linked it to the 'dwindling narrative of feminists'.
We can't begin to express our disgust at such a crass message, one with no regard to the family of the deceased. But our condemnation isn't one that will hold the most weight right now; it's our media industry that needs to speak up.
Most, if not all, celebrities have taken to social media to call for justice for Noor, the 27-year-old who was beheaded in Islamabad. The question is, can and should your posts calling for justice for Noor Mukadam and other victims of gender-based violence be taken seriously when you continue to work with a man like Qamar and stay silent in the face of his vicious attacks on women? The short answer — no. You don't get to make empty calls for justice when you can't stand up to a bully who publicly attacks women.
Culture journalist Rafay Mahmood hit the nail on the head when he said Qamar will remain the best litmus test for the showbiz industry's moral compass.
"If you don't call him out for his vile comments about Noor Mukadam, you don't have the right to campaign for Noor or bandwagon on any other issue. The Sadafs are always an easy target." And he's right. It's easy to bash Sadaf Kanwal for her misguided views on feminism because while she is a celebrity, she doesn't make celebrities. Qamar, on the other hand, is a prolific writer aligned with some very powerful production houses and blockbuster dramas.
There are people who have called the writer out; Mahira Khan, Osman Khalid Butt, Adnan Malik, Sanam Saeed and Meesha Shafi included but a handful of celebrities from such a massive industry is not good enough.
And no, we don't believe that every celebrity has to call out every thing he says. Giving this man's hate speech — and his words can often be termed hate speech — oxygen by repeating his words to millions of followers isn't always the best course of action.
But the celebrities who have called him out might not be the ones who plan to work with him in the future or ever. Calling him disgusting and vile probably cemented that. The celebrities who have never called him out, the big names who continue to work with him and profit from the fruit of his labour, are the ones we're focusing on.
You can post about violence against women and make emotional calls to hang all the rapists and murderers you want, but at the end of the day, when you don't call out the toxicity and vile nature of a man standing next to you, do your impassioned pleas for justice even count?
Calling for justice for any victim of gender-based violence means calling out the misogyny that breeds these kind of crimes. There is a whole system at work behind any crime, and it's not one that will be shattered with a single hanging. So when celebrities post an impassioned plea calling for justice for a victim but do not call out the aggressors and misogynists in their midst, their words fall flat. You can't stand up for a victim of gender-based violence without addressing the cause of that violence — misogyny.
Posting on social media is easy and bashing Sadaf Kanwal and others like her is easy. What's not easy is calling someone out when you have something to lose. Calling out Khalilur Rehman Qamar will probably lose many actors the chance to be in the next Meray Paas Tum Ho — would they be willing to risk it?