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Every award show is an opportunity to talk about Palestine — even the Hum Style Awards

Every award show is an opportunity to talk about Palestine — even the Hum Style Awards

Hania Aamir, Faris Shafi and other stars used their platform to speak about something important this past Saturday.
Updated 14 May, 2024

Award shows are usually a treat to attend — whether they’re happening in Pakistan or Dubai, representing a brand or a channel, packed and claustrophobic or intimate and sad — there’s hardly ever a dull moment when it comes to awards nights.

In an ideal world, nothing would compare to the delicate drapes of a sari gliding across the red carpet or the shine of a freshly polished pair of Oxfords under the tunes of a power suit making its way to a celebrity photo booth.

In an ideal world, Mahira Khan would put on her best white fit, complete with statement accessories and a neat updo and actually show up to an award show. Her award acceptance speech would involve thanking the jury, her family and friends and cheers would echo throughout the hall.

In an ideal world, I would complain that the awards’ single most unbearable aspect was how hot it was at the venue in the heat of May, second only to the red carpet fashion faux pas.

Unfortunately, this is not an ideal world, not anymore at least, and that’s not just because celebrities are tired of attending award shows (or so it seems), but because attending award shows during the worst possible time for humanity feels deranged.

In today’s world, there are bigger issues at hand than who won what and why — such as news stories from Palestine spread across our social media and protests calling for accountability of the Western world and its leaders for allowing the erasure of a people in the name of ‘self-defence’.

Thankfully, there were some celebrities at this year’s HUM Style Awards who used their platform to acknowledge the madness of the world. Palestine wasn’t exactly the centre of focus at the first Pakistani awards show since October 7. It was, however, remembered, courtesy of a handful of stars.

I will start by commending Hania Aamir for being vocal about the issue, not just at the award show, but on her Instagram, which now boasts a hefty 13.9 million followers, tying her with Ayeza Khan as the most followed Pakistani celebrity on the app.

Aamir received the award of the Most Stylish Actor TV (Female) at the show on Saturday. She made her way to the stage in a keffiyeh-inspired pink power suit by Nomi Ansari. The award was presented to her by HUM Network President Sultana Siddiqui. Taking the mic, Aamir appeared a little hesitant.

The actor thanked HUM, the jury and her friends for considering her while acknowledging that she was nominated amongst a host of “talented divas”. Mahira Khan, Saba Qamar, and Ayeza Khan were also on the roster of nominations in the category. “I don’t think I compare but thank you for the recognition,” she said.

Aamir then asked the audience to take a minute to remember everyone in Gaza, a much-needed request that was met with widespread applause as many, including myself, kept hoping for more celebrities to talk about Palestine — an expectation that was barely fulfilled. Siddiqui also clapped for Aamir onstage.

“All of us over here have a platform. Whether you’re popular or not — you have a platform that you can use to amplify your voice. I would like you to use that platform to demand a ceasefire,” she said. “#ceasefirenow should never stop trending. We’re writing history with our actions right now with whatever we’re doing and saying. So, let’s all be on the right side of history.”

By now, everyone seemed exhausted from sitting in one place for too long with the air-conditioning perpetually malfunctioning and banter that fell flat. Save for a few performances, Aamir’s minute-long speech revived the enthusiasm needed to carry the show forward.

Aside from Aamir, singer Bilal Saeed made a fashion statement for Palestine while on the red carpet. The artist, who later went on to give an electrifying finale performance, stunned in a blazer that boasted the words, “Free Palestine”.

Rapper Faris Shafi also acknowledged that we are going through difficult times before capping off his award acceptance speech with a demand for a free Palestine. Shafi is known for defying norms and being cut-throat with his music. Being a staunch critic and an ardent fan of his work, I was not disappointed.

Receiving the award of the Most Stylish Performer, Shafi graced the stage ecstatic. “Okay!!! What do we do now? Thanks to Allah and my mother, Saba Hamid, and my sister, Meesha Shafi, who’s taught me everything I know about style,” he said.

@dawn_images

#farisshafi received the Hum Style Award in the Most Stylish Performer category. He graced the stage, cracked a few jokes, left with the trophy 🏆 and a much-needed reminder👏🏻🇵🇸 #humstyleawards #faris #music #rap #introduction #hsa #palestine #gaza #awards #awardshow

♬ original sound - Dawn IMAGES

“And… I just got reminded of a shayr (saying).” The crowd jumped with excitement. “Ehsas-e-kamtari ki / misaalen ban chuki theen,” Shafi began, to hoots from the audience. He then stated, “Thank you. This is a tough time but we’re making the best of it. Free Palestine!”

His speech was followed up by Asim Azhar’s, who also received the Most Stylish Performer trophy. Azhar, like many others, did not mention Palestine in his speech, and one wonders whether that had anything to do with him being signed to a big music label. I’m guessing it takes a certain amount of freedom to be able to advocate for the freedom of others.

However, one must remember that a platform like the HUM Style Awards, like any other award show or gala — local or international — is an opportunity to advocate for social causes that demand immediate attention. So those who are in a position to speak up about Palestine and refuse to do so, need a page from Hania Aamir’s book.

On that note, model Sauban Umais and 19-year-old director-photographer Saboor Akram too made the most of this opportunity. Akram was the first to receive an award at the show on Saturday — he won the Rising Star trophy alongside Wear Manto — and capped off his speech with the call for a free Palestine.

Umais attended the event with a keffiyeh wrapped around his wrist. While receiving the trophy in the Best Model (Male) category, he said, “The more I bow in front of Allah, the more He raises me in status. The more I fear Him, the less I fear the world. This award was my sister’s unwavering support. This award was my friends’ unwavering love. This award is my mother’s prayer. And last but not the least, free Palestine!”

While making “political statements” may not be the forte of many celebrities, after Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza that has claimed the lives of over 35,000 Palestinians, I argue that celebrities need to be held to a higher standard.

In light of the movement calling for the mass blocking on social media of celebrities refusing to speak up about Palestine, Pakistani celebrities also need to ask themselves if their influence is worth being jeopardised over their refusal to speak up when lives are at stake, especially when they are being provided a platform on a platter without fear of judgment or scrutiny.

Comments

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Rihaab Fareed Chaudhry May 14, 2024 01:18pm
These gimmick are simply tactics to remain in the limelight. We all know it!
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ZAIN MUSTAFA May 14, 2024 03:57pm
Rihaab Fareed Chaudhry agreed!
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Taj Ahmad May 14, 2024 05:08pm
Simply amazing and beautiful.
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M.Saeed May 14, 2024 06:21pm
All award shows are just another arm of money making exploits of the most advertised and projected self appointed, so called celebrities!
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NYS May 14, 2024 06:50pm
Reward journey to Award Hania A. making headlines did good job by adopting keffiyeh inspired pink power suit and voice loud for Palestine freedom...
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Ehsan May 14, 2024 07:05pm
Great show keep it up HUM
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Zubair May 14, 2024 07:43pm
Talk is cheap. First, free yourself and your minds. Get rid of "zehni ghulami" and colonial mindset.
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kamal chowkidar May 14, 2024 11:08pm
Rihaab Fareed Chaudhry: You are 100 percent right.
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Rohan May 14, 2024 11:12pm
Who are these people? Never heard of them before.
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FARIDA RAMAN May 15, 2024 01:16am
Genocide in the name of self-defense is a crime.
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Omar May 15, 2024 04:00am
Sitting in a luxurious cool room, talking about Gaza and Palestine, is trying to be cool and appear sympathetic but it is nothing more than a lip service. All about garnering a few claps. Empty words which mean nothing and will be of no use.
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Helping Hands May 15, 2024 05:29am
It would be interesting to check how many of them are following the BDS movement.
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Ron May 15, 2024 06:45am
Free Palestine
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Ron May 15, 2024 06:50am
Did any of the celebrities gave away the prize money or awards away for the Children of Palestine or just the words and outfits?
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Youthistan May 15, 2024 07:47am
Virtue signalling in most cringe and shallow way. So many tragedies right here within Pakistan too, if you want to make a difference.
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Asmat Ullah May 15, 2024 08:28am
hats off for the Hania Amir and rest of the celebrities, it is high time for such unity and integrity not only as a Muslim but as a good human being. Israel and its allies must be socially boycotted on moral grounds
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Amna May 15, 2024 10:43am
And you THE REAL people still reading about them ! WAHHHHHHHHHHH
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