Junaid Jamshed, the pop star-turned-televangelist accused of blasphemy by the sectarian Sunni Tehreek, is in hiding in London and has no immediate plans to return to Pakistan, according to a member of the Tableeghi Jamaat.
Police in Karachi opened an investigation into Jamshed’s alleged blasphemy after a viral video showed the 50-year-old evangelist citing the youngest wife of Islam’s Prophet to make a broader point about women’s alleged inherent flaw of seeking attention.
A visibly distraught Jamshed apologized for his actions in a video posted to his Facebook page. “This is my mistake and it happened because of my ignorance and lack of knowledge and I seek forgiveness from the Muslim world,” he said. “I request my brothers to forgive me and I am thankful to them for pointing out my mistake, it happened unintentionally and I seek forgiveness from Allah.”
However, Mohammad Mobin Qadri, a Sunni Tehreek leader who accused Jamshed of blasphemy, told Newsweek this was “irrelevant,” and demanded the former pop star answer for his alleged crimes. The organization has also organized rallies across Pakistan, demanding Jamshed be arrested.
The number of blasphemy cases being lodged with police in Pakistan has been steadily rising in recent years and even unproven allegations often prompt mob retribution. A lawyer defending a blasphemy accused professor in Multan was shot dead earlier this year, while his replacement has been threatened to stop his defense or risk retaliation.
The blasphemy allegations have already hurt Jamshed’s standing as an Islamic scholar, with the non-profit Muslim Charity organization cancelling a scheduled appearance in Edinburgh to avoid controversy. The Tableeghi Jamaat, a conservative Sunni evangelical group often associated with Jamshed’s born-again Muslim status, has also taken steps to distance itself from the former singer. In a video posted online, Jamaat leader Maulana Tariq Jameel upbraided Jamshed for his controversial remarks.
Jameel told Newsweek Jamshed telephoned him in tears after the video was posted and assured him that he had never meant to insult anyone. “Everyone can commit such a mistake,” says Jameel. “These people [Sunni Tehreek] have given it a sectarian color, made it into an issue of Muslim vs. non-Muslim, which it is not.” He said that he supported Jamshed and had accepted his apology. “Issues like these will lead to my country’s ruin,” he added.
Jamshed, who rose to prominence as the frontman of the pop band Vital Signs, quit music in 2004 and joined the Tableeghi Jamaat. He also runs a chain of clothing stores and hosts a televised show on Islam. This is not the first time his words have caused controversy. In his role as televangelist, he has urged Muslim women not to leave their houses without a male guardian and also discouraged them from driving cars.
The former singer maintains his innocence, but appears to have become dejected by the blasphemy allegations. In a recent tweet, he said: “I never thought I would ever receive so much pain from the people of my country.”