Two days ago, I came across a video of Pakistani singer Rahat Fateh Ali Khan repeatedly assaulting a man for displacing a bottle that was ‘dam wala paani’ (holy water) or you can understand what I am not saying. Later in the day, another video surfaced, where Rahat apologized to that man and clarified that he was his student and that punishment is part of the relationship between a teacher and student. The student’s father was seen in the video as well and both father and son standing next to the singer swearing the love and kindness of the famous singer.
I don’t know what was more shocking for me and filled my core with sheer disgust: RFK mercilessly beating up a grown-up man or forcing that man along with his father to stand up next to him singing his praises. Some people believe that he was intoxicated and that to me sounds like, ‘it’s not his fault. It’s the alcohol talking.’ Even if we go with that reason and give him some allowance that he was not in his senses, what is worse is that once he had come to his senses, he blatantly justified his unacceptable behavior in the name of a teacher-student precious relationship. I believe normalizing abusive behavior is worse than the abuse itself. In what twisted world does mercilessly hitting a man; disrespecting him in front of others is the language of love of a teacher? It was nothing but sheer narcissistic behavior of the singer and a show of power.
The display and misuse of power was not only displayed in the first video but also in the second where it looked like the victim was forced to stand next to the singer and forcefully speak the language he was asked to speak.
More importantly, where is the sense of responsibility of RFK? A celebrity of his caliber who is followed by millions cannot come on a public forum and make a statement justifying his act and how in the world was this an apology.
An apology is a simple acknowledgment of the hurt that we cause others. When it is contaminated with justifications, it becomes a self-serving act to save one’s pride or feelings of guilt or shame. I was hoping that the singer would have some healthy shame for what he had done or it would have been better had he just stayed silent. This was probably not the first time he had done something like this which is why in my opinion someone from his staff chose to make a video and share it on social media.
Injustice in the world is as frequent as our breathing but the real question is: what do we do when we witness it? As the public, we need to openly condemn what Rahat Fateh has done. We need to raise our voices and protest so another public figure who is breaking the law or hurting someone behind closed doors can stop. King Charles’ British Asian Trust cuts ties with Rahat Fateh Ali Khan after this violent video condemning the abusive behavior regardless of the reasons given by the singer. I applaud this move because for me with great power comes great responsibility and when a mature public figure commits violence of this nature, the reaction to it has to be loud and clear.
I don’t believe in shaming anyone for forgiveness and second chances are a must, but it was his second video that disturbed me more than the first one and it clearly showed his lack of remorse or accountability and naivety that this public apology of sorts could save his reputation. The only way forward is for the singer to apologize again and have the courage to own up to his grave mistake seek mental health support for his aggression and set the right example for others.
The writer is a BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited individual and couple psychotherapist based in Islamabad. She can be reached at zaramaqbool @yahoo.com