Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search

The new movie that's all the rage in Pakistan

Our reporter scores a ticket to 'In the name of God.'

(Page 2 of 2)

The movie centers around an upper-middle class Pakistani family, the kind whose stories the director Shoaib Mansoor – a successful age-old hand in Pakistan state media – made a name for himself portraying in popular soap operas in the 1980s. The story of two musician brothers – one studies music in Chicago and the other becomes a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan following the American invasion – is a fantastical tale that warns its audience of the threat of Islamic radicalism to Pakistanis.

Skip to next paragraph

The inspiration for the movie, Mr. Mansoor writes, came from Junaid Jamshed, the former lead singer for Pakistan's most successful rock band, Vital Signs. Like the lead character in the movie, Mr. Jamshed turned from rock star to mullah after 2001.

Jamshed was once a joyous icon for the Western-looking youth of the 1980s, after the Soviet-Afghan War and the Islamic military rule of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq came to an end. But six years ago, he turned a corner and quickly became one of the most high-profile Islamic preachers associated with the Tablighi Jamaat, a Muslim missionary group that spans the globe.

A metaphor for the segment of society that was rejecting Western influence in a time of war, Jamshed grew a full beard and swapped his tight jeans and T-shirts for a more nationalistic salwar kameez. He dedicated himself to spreading the word of the Koran to the masses and preaching about the evils of music.

Mansoor, who was a close friend and had helped propel Vital Signs to mega-stardom, was disturbed by Jamshed's transformation. "It really shook me badly," the director told a local magazine before the movie premierèd. "I couldn't believe God could hate the two most beautiful things he has given to mankind ... music and painting."

"I felt that a confused man like Junaid had no right to confuse thousands of his youthful followers," he said.

The movie is also being touted as the revival of Pakistani cinema, which has been a casualty of increasing religious militancy in the country. Abdul Rashid Ghazi of the Red Mosque, for example, made one of his last anti-vice stands against the release of "In the Name of God." Mr. Ghazi called the movie blasphemous and anti-Islamic. "We won't allow this," he warned the government earlier this month.

Ghazi was killed a few days after uttering those words at the hands of the Pakistani military, and the movie is now showing all over the Punjab province, the Pakistan Army's stronghold, in the city of Karachi the financial capital, and a few well-to-do surrounding towns in Sindh. It is unlikely to make its way west to the provinces bordering Afghanistan and Iran. The uncensored movie is not only likely to be rejected by the provincial governments led by Islamist parties, but also by the Pashtun and Baluchi tribes themselves, who are portrayed as violent, cunning, and chauvinistic religious fanatics in the movie.

I drove back to Islamabad the next day and violence broke out at the Red Mosque again. The capital saw its second suicide bombing of the month. For a moment, I was tempted to go back to the theater in Lahore. At least there, I could find a clear, if simplistic, explanation for the tragic panic unfolding in the city and the country.