Ali Noor talks harassment allegations a year later | The Express Tribune



KARACHI:

In a recent podcast interview hosted by Ahmed Ali Butt, singer Ali Noor opened up about the tumultuous period he faced last year after being accused of sexual harassment and professional misconduct. The allegations rocked the music industry and led to significant repercussions for Noor of the popular 90s rock band, Noori.

The singer began by reflecting on the timing of the allegations, noting that they surfaced during a deeply personal and emotionally challenging period for him, following the death of his grandmother. He expressed his belief that the accusations were aimed at making an already difficult time even harder for him. However, he once again vehemently denied any predatory behaviour, asserting, “Of course, I didn’t have an ounce of a predatory thing in me, I don’t flirt the way people flirt.”

Throughout the interview, Noor maintained his innocence, emphasizing that he did not know the accusers personally. He recounted the circumstances surrounding the allegations, including his attempts to intervene in a distressing situation involving one of the accusers, which according to him, ultimately led to him being implicated in the controversy. Noor described feeling blindsided by the accusations and the subsequent fallout, including a decline in work opportunities and damaged professional relationships.

“All the women around me call me eccentric and crazy but jitna mera comfort level hai with kuriyan (girls) without becoming their bhai (brother) or trying to get them to fall in love with me, I think other guys are even jealous of that because I’ve had a very comfortable relationship with women all my life,” he held. “Even my wife, Mandana, would understand that, that’s why I could just do what I do all the time, because there was always purity in it.”

About the women who came out with their alleged encounters with Noor, the singer said, “You can check who are these people. These women; nobody knows them from Adam, I don’t know them from Adam. The first one, she had several cuts on her hand, she was Kami’s [Paul] friend. I got to know she’s about to kill herself and that she also approached Rohail [Hyatt]. When it was my turn, I figured I’ll go into my saviour mode and respond.”

The singer recollected responding from his wife’s phone. “I responded from Mandana’s phone. Kami had told me that she is about to jump from the car and kill herself and I have to say something. And then I realized that there’s no point. I kept listening to people, somebody said I should write this, someone else said I should say this, I was in a different kind of pain then. And later I discovered that this is a big deal. People stopped giving me work and… other things happened. But sexual harassment kisi or chirya ka naam hai (it is something else altogether).”

Noor’s frustration was evident as he spoke about the impact the allegations had on his career and reputation. He shared instances where potential business deals were affected by the tarnishing of his name. Noor also addressed the personal toll of the ordeal, acknowledging the hurt caused by the public scrutiny and condemnation. He expressed disappointment at the way he was perceived and treated in the aftermath of the accusations, lamenting the loss of support from individuals he had considered friends and colleagues.

When Butt said, “I think you’ve cleared your name in that regard,” Noor asserted rather harshly, “Who gives a f*** about ‘clearing name’? Who gives a s***? I just f****** left the building. I’m gonna walk here, I’m gonna walk out of here.” The host and rapper, however, argued, “But don’t you think, Noor, that the right way to go about it would be to clear your name? Because your name now belongs to your wife and your children.”

“No!” held Noor. “They didn’t get affected by it at all. What hurt me is not the sexual harassment allegation. What hurt me is what people say. It was like I was playing a gig and they were like, ‘Oh! We forgot you’re a sexual harasser.’ Okay. Sony came to sign a deal with me and the guy spent a lot of time and said that someone in Dubai told them that I’m a sexual harasser. I was like, okay. When everyone labelled me a sexual harasser, I read Meesha’s [Shafi] message, saying, ‘so ugly he does this’.”

Butt chimed in, “And you know Meesha [Shafi] for a long time.” Noor furthered, “Yes, yes, I read more messages. There was one person who stood up for me, it was Anoushey [Ashraf]. But everyone else got scarred. Prior to this, I had gone to Hunza with some 13 girls, me being the only guy. These girls, they said to them, ‘how can you go with him?’ And even those girls were like, ‘What are you talking about? This man? He will sexually harass us?’”

Noor maintained a stoic perspective on the situation, emphasising the need to prioritize personal integrity over “societal perceptions of success or failure,” suggesting that the experience has taught him valuable lessons. He went on to call the matter “tafarqati” adding that right and wrong is relative.

“I have narcissistic tendencies and whole bunch of other tendencies and I’m not the only one with that,” he admitted. “But what I’m trying to say is, by saying that every genius has to go through this, you are putting that person, who you’re calling a genius, on a pedestal. This is a tafarqati matter, where we grade something. The fact of the matter is, that I was also like that; always wanting to be the best lawyer, the best musician. But ‘best’ is very relative and this story is very complicated and time had to prove that,” he maintained.

“I have come to realise that the world has changed a lot and it is revealing some new truths. And one of those truths is that this tafarqati matter; best, worst, cancelled, uncancelled, rich, poor, good body, bad body, appropriate words, right, wrong – everything is breaking down. So, I can’t change things but I have accepted them. These sexual harassment dramas, I am grateful I did not react or respond or try to save myself because I had to leave the building. And today, I have nothing to do with any commercial entity, any television channel, any record label,” concluded the singer.

It is pertinent to mention that Noor has not named anyone in his latest interview but the only allegations made public against him include a sexual harassment allegation by journalist Ayesha Binte Rashid and professional misconduct claims by singer Maha Ali Kazmi. Speaking to The Express Tribune after Noor’s latest podcast surfaced online, Rashid maintained that she has “nothing to say about or to the person in question.”

“And I’d rather not assume that he was speaking about me,” she holds. “However, a lot of people messaged and commented after the interview was released, saying very unkind things about my mental health,” revealed Rashid. “To them, I say: Yes, I do have self-harm scars on my arms. And I am not ashamed of that. To me, they signify all the battles I’ve won and survived. I have also had suicidal thoughts in the past. I have always been open about my struggles with mental illness and will continue to be. I am in a much better place now and I want to state on the record that my suicide ideation did not coincide with or have any relation to the predatory behavior that I have been subjected to.”

“Mental health is not a joke,” Rashid declared. “MY mental health is not a joke. In fact, no one’s mental health is a joke, ever. It’s not something to be weaponised against a person. Please think twice before making those mean comments and sending cruel messages, you never know what a person has been through. And if you are currently struggling with mental illness, please know that you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

History of allegations

In February last year, Noor was publicly accused by the journalist, who shared screenshots of an alleged conversation she had with the singer in which she called him out for “predatory behaviour” and “sexual harassment”. The screenshots saw Noor reach out to Rashid from his wife’s WhatsApp after apparently being blocked by her on the app. In his messages, he thanked her for the “wake up call”, urging her to “forgive herself, first” and then “others around” her.

When reached out for an explanation, Noor refused to give a statement but shared the “complete” version of his conversation with Rashid and allowed for it to be made public. Noor claimed that he had sent a few messages in response to Rashid’s initial message but she “did not mention them” in her post. In these messages, shared exclusively with The Express Tribune, Noor admitted to being her “gunehgar” and told her he hates himself. Rashid had refused to make any further comments on the story, but gave The Express Tribune the consent to publish her posts, which are available on her public Instagram.

Singer Maha Ali Kazmi, on the other hand, opened up about her experience with professional misconduct and workplace harassment in the Pakistani music industry in April last year. While doing so, she accused the Noori frontman of “harassment and professional misconduct”, allegedly during a Coke Studio audition. She also called him out for “sabotage”.

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