Pakistani school drops John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ over blasphemy law fears
Students at Karachi Grammar School were due to sing the Beatle singer’s 1971 solo hit at an annual event in a tradition stretching back decades. However, school administrators were forced into a late change over fears they could be liable for prosecution under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws.
Ansar Abbasi, the editor of Pakistan's largest English language newspaper The News International, highlighted the song's lyrics in a tweet to his 500,000 followers Wednesday, sparking a widespread debate over whether the "controversial" lyrics were appropriate for a school event.
A private school in Karachi is holding a concert on Friday. Students will sing John Lennon's lyrics- no heavan, no hell, no religion too .— Ansar Abbasi (@AnsarAAbbasi) August 23, 2017
Prominent conservative TV anchor Orya Maqbool Jan then joined the debate, saying that the students’ parents were “slaves to Western thought.” He also claimed that the Karachi Grammar School was “imposing” the song on the students.
“The song questions our belief in God and encourages an atheist mindset,” Jan said on the nationally televised program. He then accused the school’s principal Dr. C.E. Wall, a British citizen, of introducing secular values into the school.
“The school is run by an Englishman and that is where the problem lies,” he added.
Pakistani conservatives so offended by lyrics of John Lennon's Imagine, its only a matter of time before someone gets lynched for singing it pic.twitter.com/R2XksiL4jx— Fahad Desmukh (@desmukh) August 25, 2017
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, former student Daanika Kamal said that Mr Abbasi was ignoring the message of “Imagine.”
“We were introduced to [‘Imagine’] by the school” she said. “It was always a song of peace, that’s why it resonated with us. When you live in a country like Pakistan and are constantly hearing about attacks it is really soothing to hear a song that unites us.”
Abbasi celebrated the dropping of the song from the concert in a tweet Friday.