Accurately reciting Quranic verses in public has proved to be a professional hazard for the senators of our country. First, Rehman Malik and now, Aitzaz Ahsan has managed to attract the ire of the same advocate, albeit this time Adv Tariq Asad has filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of Dr Abid Rauf Orakzai of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F). The petition admonishes Mr Aitzaz Ahsan for his incorrect recitation and laments the “embarrassment” caused to viewers watching on television. At a time, when the SC is clearly burdened with cases involving missing persons, high treason and murder, it is now faced with the tremendous task of holding Mr Aitzaz Ahsan accountable for his lack of “Islamic knowledge”.

Thousands of cases are pending and the court will have to give attention to the petitioner’s insistence that the “senior advocate” has caused unthinkable grievous offence. Mr Asad’s demand for Aitzaz Ahsan to correctly and more importantly, publicly recite verses and prayers is but an illustration of a growing societal trend of forcible demonstrations of religious allegiance. Sadly, it has become a norm to question the faith and loyalties of individuals and then publicly demand evidence to prove that they share the same level of piety and patriotism as the rest.

The behaviour has been encouraged by public institutions. The questions faced by candidates from returning officers of the judiciary, media persons running around in parks for ‘couple-hunting’, and the content of speeches made by politicians serve as good examples. To avoid such dilemmas in the future, the senators are sincerely advised to refrain from exploring their spiritual sides on national television. And while the petitioner’s spirited protest against the embarrassment suffered by “participants and TV channels viewers” has been noted, it would be further embarrassing for the nation if an esteemed senator is forced to appear before the court and recite lessons in Islamiat.