Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Celebrity Crushes: Political Figures, Artists, and Advocates

        I find it hard to believe that there could be anyone out there that has never had a celebrity crush. Whether it was or is a television character, political leader or artist, we can all relate to having those fantasies of catching the attention of our crush for even just a few seconds. I wonder what makes the presence of these individuals so coveted? And as Muslims, how should we perceive and treat people of this status?

      We are all too familiar with what happens to people when they meet a celebrity in person. Suddenly, everyone is desperate to snap a photo and explain why they are their biggest fan. Then a quick upload on their favorite social network to brag to friends with a caption that glorifies the individual as though meeting them was the highlight of their life. If we are one of the "lucky" ones to have spent a few minutes more than the usual passerby, we desperately seek their approval and/or attention. If it's an artist, women flaunt and attempt to dress to impress. If it's a political figure, suddenly the brother wants to discuss all his aspirations. And the saddest of cases is the reality of social justice advocates and religious leaders whose popularity for everything besides their message is abused by young women and men alike. If it's a man whose catching the eye of the public for his advocacy and hard work, suddenly all that women are concerned about is his relationship status. And God forbid if he's married, then his wife better be ready for some serious aunty-like scrutiny and judgement. And if it's a woman, you can be sure that there was very few men contemplating about what came out of her mouth.

     People who are privileged to reach fame are also privileged to receive thousands, if not, millions of fans who support them wholeheartedly and would give up whatever it took for a chance to meet and greet them. They are also privileged to enjoy the support of these strangers in an almost blind fashion. These fans come to associate with these figures very strongly. So strongly that they cannot fathom seeing them commit a mistake in the public eye and some would even discredit and purposefully neglect evidence of their real humanity if they were presented with it.

      At this point, these individuals are no longer human. They have reached the status of idols and deities.

     Wait a second, that's extreme thinking, isn't it? I mean we don't obsess that much, right?

      Think about this; how much of your day do you usually spend praying? Let's say five minutes times five for each prayer, and then a few minutes here and there for some reflection or possibly some dua. The ritual of  a die-hard fan that continuously seeks to catch the attention of his idol and receives updates of his/her life through whatever medium it may be is unbelievably time consuming. So much so that it can be in itself exhibited as religious behavior all on it's own that is embedded in strong beliefs and rituals. Watching a video of an interview, tweeting them, reading an article here and there, browsing their pics, and listening to their music is bound to be more than the time spent on prayer and worship. 

     But why does this happen? What maintains and motivates this behavior?

    Popular figures work hard to reach mass audiences. One of the ways they are successful in doing so is when they provide the world with an illusion of their connection to their viewers.  Celebrities in particular are demanded by their agents to do and say multiple things that lure the public into believing that they are just like them. They do this through signings, VIP passes, interviews and other means.To look up to someone for their good work is one thing, but to let the obsession with that individual on a personal level cloud the real nature of the message they are trying to send is something else entirely.

     A Muslim must be wary of the value of their time. He or she should ask themselves an important question when they are about to engage in matters that do not benefit nor harm them; and that is, "what is the purpose of this?" If I go to his/her concert for example, what am I doing besides listening to music I could be listening to at home? Is the money put on this trip really put to use in a way Allah might be pleased with? Is all this information I'm gathering on who dated whom and who wore what beneficial to my existence in this life and the thereafter in any way?

     A Muslim must also be wary of what he or she stores in their thinking space. What we let get processed in or minds becomes who we are. Instead of filling that space with creative ideas and positive messages, it becomes encrypted with unrealistic fantasies that only distract from the reality at hand. With time, the fantasies take over and become life itself. Then the person is left unfulfilled and wondering what their real purpose in life was in the first place.

     But another question begs itself. What differentiates these individuals from people working hard to deliver the same messages but who are not under the radar?

   Purpose-wise, nothing. It's just fame and status that is coveted here. You might even know yourself of someone who started out small and didn't receive any attention and now is gaining popularity and suddenly you're letting the world know how close you were. 

     How do we then eliminating the idolization of these figures? What if they happen to be an advocate of some sort? Do I stop associating with them as a whole?

    No. All one needs to do is begin adopting a new philosophy and outlook on people as a whole. Everyone is human and should be treated equally regardless of the status they have within society. If they are advocates you are fond of, make sincere dua for them and for yourself to reach a similar positive impact on people. When you meet them, put your camera phones aside and fight the temptation to engage with them unnecessarily and for the mere selfish desire to gain attention and bragging rights. Also, think of their own struggles as people watched by many who are constantly under scrutiny and who are recipients of harsh criticism. Some cannot be seen in public without swarms of people invading their privacy and writing columns about them. Others have families that have also been dragged into the public eye. There's a lot more to being famous than it seems. And if they're a Muslim, they are then under a bigger responsibility and higher expectations to represent Islam well and speak truth regardless of their perceived level of religiosity.

    Realize that you may never meet these people. Realize that they may never be more than a stranger to you and that is okay. A Muslim does not wait on anything from the creations of Allah.

      So, be realistic, have taqwa and remember the One who helped these people reach where they are now. Remember that no matter how awesome these people seem  and how down to earth and accessible they may be, that Allah is even more accessible and that pleasing Him will be a reward for you in this life and the hereafter. He's the real celebrity you should be striving to get the attention of.