Pakistani pupils at the Karachi Grammar School (KGS) were due to sing the John Lennon ‘Imagine’ last night at an in-house concert, but administrators took fright when they learned that the performance might fall foul of Pakistan’s strict blasphemy laws.
According to the Telegraph, alarm bells sounded after a popular conservative journalist highlighted “controversial lyrics” in the song.
Ansar Abbasi, who has 500,000 followers on Twitter, tweeted on Wednesday:
Students will sing John Lennon’s lyrics –no heaven, no hell, no religion too.
The provincial government of Sindh “must intervene,” he added, in remarks that were seized upon by conservative anchors on local television.
Although Abbasi did not specify the school, talk shows later openly discussed both its identity and the specific campus at which the concert was due to be held.
The prodnose reportedly said that the school’s new Principal, Dr C E Wall, a British citizen educated at Appleby Grammar School, was introducing corrupting secular values to KGS, whose alma mater includes the assassinated former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. It’s been a long-standing tradition to sing “Imagine” at the school.
Neither Dr Wall nor a spokesperson for the school could be reached for comment.
The school, which is heavily-guarded, subsequently dropped the song from its concert.
Former student Daanika Kamal told the Telegraph that Abbasi was ignoring the message of “Imagine”, which invites listeners to picture a “brotherhood of man”, and was instead “inciting hate”.
We were introduced to [“Imagine”] by the school. 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 bombs it is really soothing to hear a song that unites us.
The reaction on Twitter to Mr Abbasi’s campaign was mostly negative.
“This is precisely the problem with our country,” posted Salman Ali Shoaib, “small-minded people focusing on songs of peace rather than terrorism, hatred, bigotry.”
In a more conciliatory mood, Abbasi yesterday tweeted that:
We need to teach the Quran to check both forms of extremism – religious or liberal.