I seek refuge in God from satan the accursed.
In the name of God, Most compassionat Most Merciful.
Every time I line up at the checkout lanes in the grocery stores, all I see are magazines selling gossip or slander. Every week brings fresh accusations against the rich, famous, and powerful. The most scandalous and thus, most lucrative stories are usually related to someone’s alleged case of infidelity, a secretly fathered child, or someone caught on camera with their clothes off.
The thing is that up until very recently, I was under the illusion that because celebrities are rich and famous, they are somehow fair targets for public humiliation, and that their lives are open to all of us for criticism. But the truth is far from that, because celebrities are simply human beings. It almost seems like the big men and women behind the media outlets have conspired to sever or lower our connection to God Almighty by purposely publishing such stories to get us to belittle our fellow human beings. After all, there is a natural pull from these kinds of stories. They stroke our egos, which then says, “Look at this scum bag! I would never do something so disgusting.” It makes us look down on others, and arrogance invades our thoughts, often without us even realizing.
I remember when the Tiger Woods infidelity story flashed all over media outlets. It had intense magnetic power to it. I, myself, watched the man, appear before television and give a public apology for his behavior, expressing his regret for hurting his wife. But was it really necessary to interview and then post text messages and photographs of the women allegedly involved with him? If the answer is yes, then every such man and woman should be exposed through media, and forced to apologize publicly.
Over and over again we see a multitude of celebrities come out on talk shows and give very public apologies for their indiscretions, or at times, deny allegations made against them. But they don’t need to do that, unless their acts were committed in the public sphere with the fans or spectators present. What does it matter to you or me if Russell Crowe told off someone, why Alec Baldwin left that angry phone message for his daughter, or whether or not Justin Bieber, a young teen, really fathered a child out of wedlock. It is really none of our business. None of these stories have anything to do with the accused people’s work, which is how we know them.
God Almighty has ordered us to treat everyone with dignity and respect. Accusing men and women of adultery, fornication, or lewdness in a way to destroy their reputations is a punishable mistake. Just because such acts are normalized and trivialized by most people does not make them so. We have to understand that God has given us free will, and is the Most Merciful, so He does not usually punish us right away for our shortcomings. But because He hides most of our our faults and does not always call us to account for our sins in this life, including slander, we start to bask in a false sense of security.
We need to wake up and see our actions for what they are. We all know that gossip and back biting are wrong, but we need to include everyone in that, not just our circle of family and friends. I don’t know any celebrity personally, and neither have I ever really interacted with any, so what right do I have to talk about their life choices. Isn’t that an even bigger reason to not talk about celebrities?
If you really want to discuss how engaging in a certain behavior is wrong, then you simply discuss the topic without associating real persons with that immoral behavior. It is a well known fact that when our beloved Prophet pbuh used to see a person do something wrong, he never used to put that person on the spot when sitting with a big gathering. Rather, his aim was to stop immorality, and so he hid the person’s identity and would say things like, “some people do such and such and that is not right.” In this manner, he protected others’ dignity, and was able to communicate the main message of adhering to good morals.
Sadly, if the people behind those gossip columns and news segments really cared about morality, they would not be in business. Their entire purpose is to defame and dehumanize celebrities, picking on their weaknesses and sending out an army of sneaky photographers who then violate their privacy. It would be wise if they did some soul searching and firstly stopped spying on other people’s private lives, and secondly, if they still like to pick on the ills of society’s rich, then at least leave out the identities of the people and focus on the actual acts that are wrong. At the same time, a lot of responsibility falls upon us, the public, to speak out against such stories when published, because we need to do our part by stop watching such shows, stop buying such magazines, and most importantly, stop discussing such stories in a sensational way to send the right message to the owners of such establishments.
It is a HUGE breach of morality to depict another person as a sexual deviant or any other negative label, regardless of how much truth there is in our conviction. The point is not so much that it has to be true, but rather, that every human being deserves to be treated with dignity and that their reputation be protected. If you have to talk about another person, regardless of whether they are famous or not, it is always best to cover up their faults and speak of their good qualities.
And why did ye not, when ye heard it, say :”It is not right of us to speak of this: Glory to Thee (our Lord)! this is a most serious slander!” (24:16)