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Editor of Newsweek Pakistan at centre of row on rape, child sexual abuse

The trouble began on Tuesday night when Lahore-based Fasih Ahmed posted two tweets on rape and child abuse that many in Pakistan and abroad considered insensitive.

world Updated: Jan 24, 2018 22:18 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan,rape,child sexual abuse
Pakistani civil society activists take part in a protest after a child was raped and murdered in Karachi on January 12, 2018. (AFP)

The editor of Newsweek’s Pakistan edition was at the centre of a spiralling controversy on Wednesday over his tweets on rape and paedophilia, with the magazine saying it was reviewing its relationship with him.

The Lahore Literary Festival announced that Fasih Ahmed, editor of the Pakistan edition of Newsweek, had recused himself from the event after organisers received several complaints over his tweets. The organisers also said Ahmed’s resignation from the festival’s board of governors had been accepted.

The trouble began on Tuesday night when Lahore-based Ahmed posted two tweets on rape and child abuse that many in Pakistan and abroad considered insensitive.

One tweet, which was apparently deleted later, Ahmed said: “Rape by, say, Obama is rape. Rape by, say, Tom Cruise is everyone’s dream come true. All subjective.”

“The sexual abuse of children will always exist. You can never eliminate it. Sometimes it leads to great art. So there’s also that,” he said in another tweet regarding the recent rape and murder of a seven-year-old girl in the border town of Kasur.

The controversial tweets by Fasih Ahmed, the editor of Newsweek Pakistan. (Twitter screengrab)

Referring to the arrest of a key suspect in the rape and murder case, Ahmed tweeted, “On the bright side, at least he’s (the suspect) straight.”

The tweets were criticised by people from around the world, including columnist Mona Eltahawy and actor Alyssa Milano, who brought Ahmed’s posts to the attention of Newsweek on Twitter.

Ahmed apologised for his tweets on Wednesday, saying they were “poorly phrased” and that he was sorry to upset child abuse victims. He had earlier defended his views in several exchanges on Twitter.

In response to the social media frenzy in Pakistan and abroad, Newsweek disassociated itself from the views expressed by Ahmed and said it was reviewing its relationship with its Pakistan edition.

“Recent tweets by Newsweek Pakistan editor @therealfasih do not represent the views of @Newsweek. We are reviewing our relationship with @NewsweekPak, which operates under a license agreement,” the magazine tweeted.

People from across Pakistan condemned the so-called “humour” behind Ahmed’s tweets and called him out for his insensitivity towards victims of sexual assault.

One Facebook user, Syed Faizan Raza Rizvi, said, “This (Fasih Ahmed) is the editor of Newsweek Pakistan making jokes about rape and child sexual abuse. He also runs the Lahore Literary Festival, if I’m not mistaken. It’s time men like him are held accountable. THIS NEEDS TO END. With opinions like this, and thinking he can STILL express them freely without consequences, he should not be allowed to continue working in the capacities he currently is.”

Jeremy McLellan, a US-based comedian who has a large Pakistani following, took to Facebook and said, “This is how Fasih Ahmed, the EDITOR OF NEWSWEEK IN PAKISTAN, responded to (a little girl’s) rape and murder this morning. Why does he still have a job?”

Twitter user Anum posted, “What hope is there when the ‘literary elite’ of the country has been reduced to absolute garbage like @therealfasih, who makes light of rape? Maybe after we remove diseases like this from society, we can find a way to move forward.”

First Published: Jan 24, 2018 17:17 IST