Pragmatic | Entertainment, meet religion

Look at the Pakistani version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire

Most of us have heard of entertainment as religion — or cricket as religion, particularly in our part of the world — but this report from Pakistan left me stumped.

Every evening at 7:30 p.m., Geo TV, the most watched TV channel in Pakistan, broadcasts an Islamic version of “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.” The show is called “Alif Laam Meem,” three letters from the Arabic alphabet that can be found at the beginning of some suras (chapters) in the Koran.

“Salam Alaykoum (good evening),” says the presenter, Junaid Jamshed. A 36-year-old former singer, Jamshed used to be clean shaven. Now he wears a prayer hat and sports a long dark beard, evidence of his recent rediscovery of Islam. In the audience, women wear veils or niqabs.[Time]

But it is the top prize in what is essentially a quiz-cum-gambling-cum-entertainment television show that is dumbfounding.

If he manages to answer the 15 questions, he will win an apartment, a pilgrimage to Mecca for two, and 2.8 million rupees, about 23,000 euros.[Time]

A pilgrimage to Mecca for two! Really! As someone quipped on twitter, this could be aptly titled as Kaun Banega Haji (Who will win the chance to do the Haj) —a take on the Indian version of the show, called Kaun Banega Karodpati.

It reminded me of the warning which noted Pakistani author, Mohammed Hanif delivered in his piece in January 2009: The Power of the Pulpit – The Saudi-isation of Pakistan.

This isn’t about schadenfreude. No one can deny that India has its own sets of problems to grapple with. However there is a lesson here for many Indian analysts. Pakistani and Indian societies may have been similar 64 years ago but they have drifted far apart now. India and Pakistan are no-longer the mirror images of each other. We must stop looking at Pakistan from the delusional prism of a shared culture, values and ethos. Instead, let us frame realistic policies which the ground situation in Pakistan warrants. That little dose of realism in our approach is liable to help the two nations and societies much more.

DISCLAIMER: This is an archived post from the Indian National Interest blogroll. Views expressed are those of the blogger's and do not represent The Takshashila Institution’s view.