When we think of social media, one of the first things that comes to our minds is how much of an impact it has on people. The hate that often fills comment sections can leave people scarred, the carefully edited pictures that leave others envious and critical of their own perceived flaws and the people who like to spew nonsense without a thought of who is impacted by what they say. Enter celebrities like Hira Mani who use their platforms to share pictures, videos and ridiculous statements and then believe they can wish it all away with an apology.
But in the real world, an apology doesn’t wash away your wrongdoings. Saying sorry is great, but it doesn’t mean you get away with doing or saying something wrong just because you say it.
On Monday, the Ghalati actor took to Instagram and stirred controversy after she said she doesn’t want Dua Zehra — a minor from Karachi who was reported initially reported kidnapped in April and later found to have ‘eloped’ in Punjab with someone who is not a minor — and her ‘husband’ Zaheer to part ways.
In now expired Instagram stories, Mani had justified her statement by saying, “I’m not politically right but emotionally correct. That’s why I am Hira Mani.” Indeed, Hira Mani is almost never “politically right”. In fact, we often think she doesn’t even know what it means to be “politically right” — if she did, she wouldn’t say half the things she does.
Her opinion on a sensitive issue such as this case attracted massive backlash online. People criticised the actor’s opinions, her acting skills and her deeply problematic take on a matter of child marriage. All of the criticism came down to one thing and one thing only — someone needs to take Hira Mani’s social media away.
While we believe the backlash was well-deserved, it also raised the question of whether some people should have access to such large platforms, especially when they use them so carelessly. As Mani admitted later, she didn’t actually form her opinion after reading the facts of the case — she was in Dubai on vacation, where she seems to want us to believe there is no access to news channels or websites.
But ignorance is not always bliss and making sweeping statements on your massive platform without understanding that you are romanticising child marriage isn’t something that can be swept under the rug with a mere sorry and some tears.
An apology long coming
Two days after her initial statement, Mani issued an apology via a four-minute long video that saw her talking about the reasons behind her earlier statement.
“Two days go I had shared a story in which I wrote in favour of Dua Zehra and Zaheer. At that time I didn’t know it’s a kidnapping case and that Dua Zehra is underage. I was in Dubai, on vacations so maybe I had enough time to watch some clips of YouTubers online, their interviews and formed a perception… Which was wrong,” she said.
“There’s nothing wrong with saying sorry and apologising doesn’t make anyone less. I have a lot of fans that love and support me and a star is made by people and I don’t know how to upset people, and I can’t. So I’m sorry if I hurt you, in fact I was hurt too when I found out about the actual case,” she said.
The actor said that when her husband told her about the case, she was “worried” because she thought of the pain Zehra’s parents must’ve gone through. “I’m also a daughter and I know if my father was here, he would’ve been worried as well.”
Mani said that a lot of people asked her not to make a video or even talk about the matter but she did because she’s so “natural” and wants to talk one on one with people who are also close to her. “The people who are close to me also read this and got upset with me. They said I shouldn’t have written it because I didn’t know.” She also said that no matter what rank a person has, they must apologise if they have made a mistake.
The Yeh Na Thi Humari Qismat actor apologised to the public and Dua Zehra’s parents in her video. “I now have realised the pain the parents must’ve gone through. Before I had only seen few clips on YouTube and thought this must be right. But this was a mistake on my part. My knowledge lacked here and I wrote that while feeling emotional, I’m an actor so there are a lot of emotions inside me.
“But emotions should be used correctly which I do and you guys have seen it, be it charity or to help someone and I’ve done a lot for people in Covid. I’m the emotional and sensitive type and made a mistake, after all I’m also a human first before being a celebrity or even a star, mother, a daughter and a sister.”
Mani clarified that she is not in favour for child marriage and definitely not in favour of cases of abduction. “I’m also upset about how people are writing about me. After Aamir Liaquat, I had to make a video like this because I was wrong. I’ve been upset since the past two days and ever since I’m back to Karachi I haven’t seen or met anyone and my family and friends encouraged me to talk to the people directly and so I did.”
She concluded her video by praying for the family and for God to keep all families and their daughters safe.
What’s the problem here?
Everyone knows the value of a good, meaningful, wholehearted apology. But this wasn’t an apology that worked. Despite repeating how sorry she was five times in her teary video, it clearly appears that the actor still doesn’t understand how to apologise without justifying what she did. She compared herself to late politician and host Aamir Liaquat and his apology videos instead of acknowledging the case itself, so what she really has learnt?
It’s public knowledge that the Sindh High Court had determined through a bone ossification test that Dua Zehra is underage and the police are currently investigating whether she was abducted. At the very least, it’s a case of child marriage. Does Mani really think that watching a couple of YouTube videos on the case — a case that has been talked about in the media for months due to the controversy of Dua’s age — is enough for her to share her take on such a sensitive topic? Well, yes, she does. And why shouldn’t she? Everyone else does too.
But the catch here, one that Mani is seemingly ignoring, is that unlike the faceless trolls online, she has 6.9 million followers. The ability to reach 6.9 million people is staggering, especially when the account owner says she doesn’t fact check before unleashing her problematic opinions on court cases.
What’s even worse is that there were people online who supported her original statement that Dua must stay with her alleged kidnapper since she is now his wife.
Mani may have apologised to the public, but that group of people supporting the toxic mentality of letting a child stay with her abductor is still seeking validation and her opinion gave them the backing they needed.
A vacation, ignorance and being an emotional actor are not excuses. Hira Mani, your tearful apology doesn’t absolve you of being responsible for what you say. Hours after your initial post, you also shared another in which you claimed you weren’t “politically right”. It clearly took you days to educate yourself on the case and why your posts were a bad idea. Or was it the social media backlash that did it? You said, after all, that a celebrity is only made by their fans.
We wish you shared the actual facts of the case with the public in your apology video instead. Tell people what made you change your mind, tell them what your husband had to explain to you, tell them what you finally read that made you realise that this is not a tragic love story.
We hope that the next time Hira Mani decides to share her opinion online, she talks about it with someone else and does a Google search first, but we aren’t holding our breath. After all, she’s not “politically right, but emotionally correct.” That’s why she’s Hira Mani.