On Personal Privacy And Afghans’/Pashtuns’ Attitudes Towards It

Over the past year or so, I’ve come to realize how incredibly important it is not to share each and everything over social media, whether they are personal pictures/videos, successes, trips, meet-ups/get-togethers, pregnancy, etc. And I don’t need to give reasons as to why I don’t want to share them, as it’s none of anyone’s business what it is that I choose and not choose to share with the public.

While there have been a few times that I’ve slipped in discussing personal things, I try not to share too much detail, especially in public conversations over social media; I quickly divert the conversation to a more private medium, such as Viber or Whatsapp. I know that in the past, I didn’t care as much and would go to either Facebook or Twitter to quickly announce what it was that I was doing, going to do, or achieve, and I’ve come to realize that the world — the public, and especially people who don’t matter and have no influence, impact or connection in my life — need not know each and everything that is going on. They don’t. And while I am not a celebrity or a famous person, I find it incredibly uneasy and disturbing when I learn, either through close friends or the grapevine, that certain people (with whom I have absolutely no relationship or connection with) know things about my life that I’ve tried to limit to my closest friends or to myself.

Needless to say, this post isn’t about me, but about Shafeeq Mureed — one of Afghanistan’s beloved musical sensations — who recently got married. (Many, many congratulations, Shafeeq wror jaana! We couldn’t be more happy for you! May you two have a beautiful marriage filled with nothing but love and endless happiness.)

Anyway, last night Mureed shared a status on the ‘wall’ of his page in which he wrote the following (see screen-shot below):

mureedAs someone who deeply values privacy, especially when it comes to personal things and occasions, I really feel for Mureed. People had no right to secretly take pictures and videotape his wedding, without his knowing about it, and especially without his consent/permission, and then share it all over the world wide web. It is beyond unethical, regardless of the fact that he is a public figure/celebrity. It’s also incredibly unfair to assume that just because someone is constantly in the public eye that that person would automatically be fine with making his whole personal life ‘public property’ as well. We need to realize that these people are humans too. They have real lives beyond what we see on TV or music videos. And they have rights too! — the right to their privacy. And we truly need to learn how to respect that.

Unfortunately, though, when it comes to such things, we Afghans/Pashtuns are quick to get defensive and even start making blatant assumptions that may not necessarily be true. For example, as I went through the comments on Mureed’s status, albeit for the most part they were positive and in support of Mureed’s wishes, there were some that were quite disgusting, to say the least. I was shocked at how rude and insensitive some of his so-called “fans” were, completely disregarding his kind message and going as far as calling him a “hypocrite” and a number of other vile names that I won’t bother mentioning here.

Like, this comment here (see screen-shot below) lacks every iota of logic and sense.

mureed2

First of all, the “daughters” that this individual speaks of chose to participate in Mureed’s videos; no guns were held to their heads to force them to do something that they didn’t want to do. Besides, I’ve seen some of Mureed’s videos and there is nothing — absolutely nothing — “haram” about them. If this person (who is clearly male, but I was nice enough to hide his identity) has an issue with women participating in music videos, then that’s his personal dilemma (and I deeply pity him). A woman is free to act, model, participate in videos (and the ones in Mureed’s videos have been quite lovely; no Nazia Iqbal style thank goodness), and I personally see nothing wrong with that.

Here is one I love, and the model is absolutely gorgeous, and the same goes for the belly dancers (which, in my opinion, are quite lovely and graceful too):

Here is another one (not in Pashto, though, but I love how it goes and the translation is lovely). Again, the model in the video is adorable:

I am sure there are more, but I’ll share/add more later. The point I am trying to make is that there is a huge difference between making videos with the actors’ consent and one where there was no consent given. So, it’s incredibly obtuse to even compare Mureed’s videos to his personal wedding video. There is no comparison at all. None. Whatsoever.

Here are a couple more silly and narrow-minded comments that I feel were out of line too (see screen-shots below):

mureed1

mureed 3

No. No. No. NO! Mureed being a celebrity should not have to make him “ready” to have his personal pictures plastered all over the world wide web! And that too without his permission! I already mentioned this earlier and I will mention it again, being famous or a celebrity does not give people the right to abuse their rights, just because they have public videos (in which the actors/actresses have participated with consent) and pictures of themselves (which again have been shared with consent) all over the Internet. These people lead dual lives: public and private; what they want to share publicly, they do, and that’s what we — the fans — enjoy and derive entertainment from. But, then, they also have private lives, which include their wives, husbands, kids, family, pets, etc., which they choose not to share publicly for reasons that we have no business knowing. And while I see the first person’s point above about how there are many Pashtun/Afghan men who don’t share pictures of their wives, etc., I don’t think that is necessarily the issue in Mureed’s case. Just because he so very kindly requested that people not share pictures and videos of his wedding publicly doesn’t automatically imply that he is a patriarchal, oppressive man who wants to keep his wife hidden. Perhaps if he had specifically said something like, “Please don’t take or share pictures/videos of my wife,” I’d more so come to that conclusion. Yet, he made no such claim. His request was generic. So, please dear Afghans/Pashtuns, stop assuming something that you have absolutely no knowledge about. It makes you look obtuse and incredibly biased.

I guess the main reason I decided to write about this issue (yes, it’s a huge issue among us, very unfortunately) was not only to address the specific privacy issue that Mureed had to face in his personal life, but it’s something that we’ve all been victims of, at some point or another.

Not too long ago, I had some professional shots of my gorgeous daughter in Afghan clothes as soon as she turned one. I then decided to share that picture on my instagram (which I quickly made private); however, I didn’t realize that before making my account private, there were people following me whom I didn’t know both online and personally. Soon after I shared my daughter’s pic, I suddenly saw her pic appearing on popular Afghan pages on Facebook. Needless to say, it made my blood boil. I quickly requested that her pic be taken down ASAP. And thankfully it was taken down eventually, but the fact that angered me the most was that her picture was taken from my private instagram account, without my consent, and shared on a public space. Those who know me, know how deeply private and protective I am about my little girl. I only share clear pics of her with friends and family. And, no, I don’t need to provide a reason for that. It’s just the way it is, and it’s just the way I am, and I expect people to respect that.

Although such an incident like this never happened again (and I won’t allow it, anyhow), I still often see random pictures of beautiful Afghan/Pashtun children and young, attractive women being shared in many public pages on Facebook, and it always perturbs me, because I know that most of these pictures are being shared without permission. Without consent. And then we Pashtuns/Afghans are always so quick to use the “nang” ow “namoos” card. We expect people to respect us, and respect our privacy, but when it comes to the precious children, wives, sisters, etc. of others, we are quick to press the download and save button, and then share it freely, and despicably guilt-free, all over the web.

I want to thank Mureed for bravely addressing his fans and bringing up this issue, regardless of how personal it was. He is an influential figure, and I hope his message sinks in the minds of those who could learn a lesson or two about what it means to respect someone’s private life.

I'd love to read your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s