On Khalilur Rehman Qamar’s interview about #MeToo and women’s equality

Yesterday the Express Tribune published a news story about an interview with television writer Khalilur Rehman Qamar, who is well known in Pakistan for writing and directing PTV television dramas Boota From Toba Tek Singh and Landa Bazaar. More recently he teamed up with Humayun Saeed of Six Sigma Entertainment to produce Punjabi Kangauni and Kaaf Kangana, among other dramas for private Pakistani cable channels.

Mr. Rehman fancies himself as having his finger on the pulse of Pakistani society.  Unfortunately, his track record of writing shows that purport to show real Pakistani family life, but are instead paeans to misogyny, sexism and women’s victimhood, with a healthy dose of male violence against women, doesn’t exactly qualify him as an expert on the subject of women’s rights.

Rehman was asked in a recent interview on a podcast called Boomerang for Entertainment Pakistan about his views on women in society. In Urdu and English, he explains his philosophy, in the process exposing the type of mentality that allows him to produce the kind of anti-women programs that have become “hits” in Pakistan.

The famed television writer speaks with the confidence of a man who knows he’s supplying the drug his customers need — the drug of hatred for women. In the podcast he was asked to speak about his latest offering, Mere Pass Tum Ho (I Have You), about a woman who cheats on her middle class but loving husband with a man who is rich and powerful.

He says that he “sends laanath” (curses) on “those” types of women. What types of women exactly? Well, those who cheat on their husbands. Those who break up families without a thought for their poor husbands and children, their souls, or God. No curses for the men who cheat on their wives? No– according to Rehman, “when a married man betrays his wife, he feels guilty. He feels embarrassed.”

So it is this “embarrassment” that saves men from Rehman’s censure, although he provides absolutely no proof whatsoever for his anecdotal assertions, and worse, generalizes  based on what he claims to have “seen” without considering whether his own anti-woman bias may have influenced his beliefs.

“I’ve observed when a married woman cheats, she doesn’t feel ashamed at all. The reason behind her not feeling guilty is because she has been backed by another man. When an unmarried woman cheats, she feels guilty.” (Not really sure how an unmarried woman “cheats”, but let’s go on…) Worse, he claims that “Allah has given” him the strength and opportunity to write on “a very different issue”.

The interviewer, a young woman clearly starstruck by her subject and unable to do anything but giggle and stroke his ego, doesn’t even attempt to question him or check him for the incredible nonsense he’s spouting.

Here’s another gem from this disaster of an interview (I was not even halfway through it and already losing my will to live):

“Like it or not, I don’t call every woman a woman. To me, the only beautiful trait a woman can possess is her loyalty and her haya (modesty). If a woman isn’t loyal then she is not a woman. Register an FIR (police report) against me for if you don’t subscribe to my point of view but I won’t budge. Get someone to try me under #MeToo, but I won’t care about that either.”

He goes on to say, “I swear to God I’m the biggest feminist, but I’m fighting for good women.” (This is the point where my computer burst into flames).

And:

“Women have the ability to say no, men don’t have this ability.” (We could talk about Prophet Yacoob who resisted the most beautiful woman of all time, Bibi Zuleikha, but oh, Pakistani men can never be like that)

“Why does a man go to another woman? First, a dissatisfied marriage. And second, when the woman is there, and she’s had 50,000 rupees of makeup done from Depilex, a man looks at her, and she says yes. THAT’S A FACT.”

He goes on to say that men who go out to work, leaving their wives at home guarding their honor, go through so much humiliation that women can never understand it (never mind that Pakistani women also work, and go through worse humiliation because of sexual harassment, but hey, that doesn’t happen in Rehman’s universe).

Now here’s the part where things get really interesting. Rehman decides that his expertise in women and their psychology qualifies him to speak about sexual assault.

“If you wish to strive for equality then kidnap men as well. Rob a bus, gang rape a man, so that I can understand what you [women] mean by equality.” (Interviewer giggles, says, “Tauba tauba”) “No, look I know what happens in other places! But you women will never understand your own rights. You want equality, that’s it. You want to wear shorts, I promise that will never happen in the Subcontinent!”

It is very hard to ignore the gleam in his eye as he asks the interviewer if she has ever heard of men gang raping women. It is very hard to ignore that talking about this with a young woman constitutes sexual inappropriateness, and that the subject makes her uncomfortable. It is very hard not to have the idea that he has thought a lot about four or five girls “gang-raping” a man, surrounding him and having their way with him.

It is impossible to ignore the fact that this interview exceeds the limits of decency.

He already predicts what will happen after this interview: “Some girls will make 50,000 tweets and that’s it. They can’t do anything else. You can never change a man’s mentality. But if you try to accuse men, YOU’LL BELONG TO NOBODY!”

Gang rape a man. Wear shorts. Good women don’t do these things, bad women do. Honestly, I thought listening to this dumpster fire of an interview would make me more angry than when I’d read its summary in the Tribune, but it had the opposite effect. It convinced me that Rehman is a very sad man. A rapidly aging man, born in 1961, but desperately struggling for relevance in the 21st century. Perhaps that’s why he decided to wade into the issue of #MeToo and feminism in Pakistan. Perhaps that’s why he thinks his views have so much weight and importance. You can see that relevance means everything to him by his black-dyed hair, which gives him the look of a desi Elvis, bloated and past his prime but still hanging on to every last vestige of attractiveness he can.

I’m not worried about men like Rehman. You know why? They’re going to go the way of the dinosaur. They already look like anachronisms when compared to the brave men of today, like Jami, who confessed recently to having been raped (BY A MAN) and coming out with his story to support the #MeToo movement in Pakistan.

Keep churning out your dross to the masses, Mr. Most Famous Writer of Pakistan. Women don’t need you. You’re irrelevant. Soon you’ll be in the trash heap of history. And we will still be around to make sure nobody cares about you when you’re gone.

 

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