Hitting the wrong note: Rahat Fateh Ali, Bilal Saeed and dismissing acts of violence

Both singers have failed to show remorse after their recent displays of aggression were caught on camera.
29 Jan, 2024

Videos of two influential Pakistani singers committing acts of violence have emerged in the past week — Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Bilal Saeed. If you ask us, that’s two too many.

Here’s a quick recap: Saeed was performing at a Punjab Group of Colleges’ school for their Youth Musical Festival when he hurled a microphone into the crowd presumably of young students for undisclosed reasons. A few days later, a secretly recorded video of Khan emerged where he was violently beating a person in his employ over a missing “bottle”.

Their acts of what can only be described as assault occurred because both men were in positions of power, even if you don’t take into account how esteemed they are as artists — Khan is one of the most eminent singers in the subcontinent and Saeed has over a million followers on social media. The ‘Ghalti Hogayi’ singer was surrounded by college students, while Khan was with his “shagird” (student).

Violence cannot be justified by the status you hold and this applies to everyone, including celebrities. Sadly, however, that is exactly what both singers assumed as they swiftly dismissed their respective situations with no proper apology and an abhorrent lack of remorse.

Saeed posted an Instagram story (which disappear within a day), claiming that he “should have never left the stage”. Meanwhile, Khan said it was a “private issue” between a teacher and a student, and claimed that he asked for his student Naveed Hasnain’s forgiveness then and there after beating him up (but failed to apologise on camera, of course).

The singers’ actions are a reflection of how they believe they can act when the cameras aren’t rolling. Clearly, the violence was not the problem, getting caught was. What’s worse is that despite the outrage and backlash across social media, they were not repentant. Rather, the shred of regret they portrayed may have been because of the virality of the videos that they weren’t expecting to be filmed.

The icing on top of the detestable cake is that neither man — much like most men in positions of power — is facing adequate repercussions, apart from critical comments on social media. Saeed performed on Sunday night at a festival in Lahore and we can only assume that Khan’s fame will not be impacted by one viral video.

People — once again, including celebrities — need to be held accountable for their actions so that they can understand the importance of a sincere apology. However, it is not our responsibility to hold them responsible for their wrongdoings.

As adults, they should be aware that violence is never the answer, regardless of the circumstances. With Saeed, there was speculation that students in the audience were making rude gestures at the singer, however, if he was so offended at the situation, he should have walked off the stage instead of flinging a mic. With Khan, he later claimed that the ‘bottle’ in question was “blessed” by a spiritual guide, but even if his student lost the ‘bottle,’ repeatedly hitting him was not the answer.

As consumers of content created by celebrities, we should not idolise artists and be mindful of what we consume. Celebrity worship can lead to unrealistic expectations and (continuous) disappointment. We need to stop idolising celebrities who treat others with such little respect.