A four-minute apology video filled with tears and excuses of ignorance does not absolve the actor from making harmful statements about the Dua Zehra case.
When we think of social media, one of the first things that comes to mind is how much of an impact it has on people. The hate that often fills the comment sections can scar people, the carefully edited photos that make others jealous and critical of their own perceived flaws, and the people who like to spout nonsense without thinking about who is influenced by what they say. Enter celebrities like Hira Mani who use their platforms to share photos, videos and ridiculous statements and then think they can wish it all with an apology.
But in the real world, an apology doesn’t wash away your misdeeds. Saying sorry is great, but it doesn’t mean you can get away with doing or saying something wrong just because you say it.
On Mondays the Ghalati actor took to Instagram sparking controversy after saying she doesn’t want Dua Zehra — a minor from Karachi who was initially reported as kidnapped in April and later revealed to have “run away” in Punjab with someone who not a minor – and her “husband” Zaheer to break up.
In now-expired Instagram stories, Mani had justified her statement by saying, “I’m not politically right, but emotionally correct. That’s why I’m Hira Mani.” Indeed, Hira Mani is almost never ‘politically right.’ In fact, we often think she doesn’t even know what it means to be ‘politically right’ – if she did she wouldn’t say half the things she does .
Her views on a sensitive issue like this one attracted massive online opposition. People criticized the actor’s opinion, her acting skills, and her highly problematic take on an issue of child marriage. All the criticism boiled down to one thing and only one thing: someone has to take Hira Mani’s social media away.
While we felt the response was well-deserved, it also raised the question of whether some people should have access to such large platforms, especially when they are so careless with them. As Mani later admitted, she didn’t really make up her mind after reading the facts of the case – she was on vacation in Dubai, where she seems to want us to believe that there is no access to news channels or websites.
But ignorance isn’t always bliss and making sweeping statements on your massive platform without understanding that you’re romanticizing child marriage isn’t something that can be swept under the rug with just sorry and some tears.
An apology that takes a long time
Two days after her initial statement, Mani apologized via a four-minute video explaining the reasons behind her earlier statement.
“Two days ago I had shared a story where I wrote in favor of Dua Zehra and Zaheer. At the time I did not know that it was a kidnapping case and that Dua Zehra is a minor. I was in Dubai on vacation, so maybe I had enough time to watch some clips of YouTubers online, their interviews and I formed a perception… Which was wrong,” she said.
“There’s nothing wrong with saying sorry and apologizing doesn’t make anyone less. I have a lot of fans who love me and support me and a star is made by people and I don’t know how to upset people and I can’t either. So I’m sorry if I hurt you, in fact I was hurt too when I heard about the actual case,” she said.
The actor said that when her husband told her about the case, she was “concerned” because she thought of the pain Zehra’s parents must have gone through. “I’m also a daughter and I know if my father had been here he would have been worried too.”
Mani said many people asked her not to make a video or even talk about the matter, but she did it because she’s so “natural” and wants to talk one-on-one with people who are close to her as well. “The people close to me also read this and got mad at me. They said I shouldn’t have written it because I didn’t know.” She also said that no matter what rank someone is, they should apologize if they made a mistake.
The Yeh Na Thi Humari Qismati actor apologized to the audience and Dua Zehra’s parents in her video. “I now realize the pain the parents must have endured. Before that I had seen few clips on YouTube and thought this was right. But this was my mistake. My knowledge was lacking here and I wrote that while I feel emotional I am an actor so there are a lot of emotions in me.
“But emotions have to be used correctly, what I do and you’ve seen it, whether it’s charity or to help someone and I’ve done a lot for people in Covid. I’m the emotional and sensitive type and I made a mistake, after all I’m a human being before I’m a celebrity or even a star, mother, daughter and sister.”
Mani clarified that she is not in favor of child marriage and certainly not for kidnapping cases. “I’m also angry about how people write about me. After Aamir Liaquat I had to make such a video because I was wrong. I’ve been upset for the past two days and since I got back to Karachi I haven’t seen or met anyone and my family and friends encouraged me to talk directly to the people and I did.”
She concluded her video by praying for the family and for God to keep all families and their daughters safe.
What’s the problem here?
Everyone knows the value of a good, meaningful, sincere apology. But this was not an apology that worked. Despite repeating five times how sorry she was in her tearful video, it seems clear that the actor still doesn’t understand how to apologize without justifying what she did. She compared herself to the late politician and broadcaster Aamir Liaquat and his apology videos rather than acknowledge the case herself, so what has she really learned?
It is well known that the Supreme Court of Sindh had determined Dua Zehra to be a minor through a bone ossification test and the police are currently investigating whether she has been kidnapped. In any case, it is a case of child marriage. Does Mani really think he’s watching some YouTube videos on the case – a case that has been talked about in the media? months due to the controversy of Dua’s age – is enough for her to share her opinion on such a sensitive topic? Well, she does. And why wouldn’t she? Everyone does that too.
But the catch here, one that Mani seemingly ignores, is that unlike the anonymous trolls online, she has 6.9 million followers. Its ability to reach 6.9 million people is staggering, especially when the account owner says she doesn’t check the facts before releasing her problematic opinions about lawsuits.
What’s worse is that there were people online who supported her original statement that Dua should stay with her alleged kidnapper because she’s now his wife.
Mani may have apologized to the public, but that group of people who support the toxic mindset of letting a child stay with her abductor is still seeking confirmation and her views gave them the support they needed.
A vacation, ignorance and being an emotional actor are no excuses. Hira Mani, your tearful apology does not absolve you of responsibility for what you say. Hours after your first post, you also shared another post claiming you weren’t “politically right.” It clearly took you days to educate yourself on the matter and why your posts were a bad idea. Or was it the social media response that did it? After all, you said that a celebrity is only created by their fans.
We wish you would instead share the factual facts of the case with the public in your apology video. Tell people why you changed your mind, tell them what your husband had to explain to you, tell them what you finally read that made you realize this isn’t a tragic love story.
We hope that the next time Hira Mani decides to share her opinion online, she talks to someone else about it and does a Google search first, but we’re not holding our breath. After all, she is not “politically correct, but emotionally correct.” That’s why she’s Hira Mani.