- By Uri Friedman
Uri Friedman is deputy managing editor at Foreign Policy. Before joining FP, he reported for the Christian Science Monitor, worked on corporate strategy for Atlantic Media, helped launch the Atlantic Wire, and covered international affairs for the site. A proud native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, he studied European history at the University of Pennsylvania and has lived in Barcelona, Spain and Geneva, Switzerland.
A Delhi-based men’s lifestyle magazine dropped a bombshell today that recalls the controversy back in April over Turkish Cosmo running a photo of the Armenian-American television star Kim Kardashian without her permission.
The story begins this morning, when FHM India fired off a barrage of tweets on an upcoming cover featuring Pakistani actress Veena Malik, fully nude and sporting an ISI tattoo in reference to Pakistan’s controversial spy agency. “Pakistani W.M.D. Veena Malik on Asif, burqas, and work visas,” the magazine promised around Malik’s midsection. It wasn’t shy about promoting the exclusive on Twitter, either. “ISI + Counter Terrorism + Hot Naked Chick = THE HOTTEST WINTER EVER!!” the magazine crowed.
Naturally, mayhem ensued. The Pakistani Twitterverse exploded with commentary and screenshots. FHM India‘s site temporarily crashed. Malik denied posing nude, claimed the picture had been “morphed,” and threatened legal action (the magazine has been accused of altering pictures in the past). FHM India retorted that it had a video of the photo shoot and an email from the actress to prove the image’s authenticity.
A frenzied back-and-forth is taking place among Twitter users in Pakistan and India as well. Some are debating whether the image was Photoshopped while others are dismissing the cover as yet another publicity stunt by Malik.
“Veena Malik would make a terrible ISI agent considering how much she reveals,” the channel quips. Still others are tired of all the talk. “A heartbeat away from 2012 and the image of a naked woman disturbs more Pakistanis than images of dismembered limbs and headless corpses,” Pakistani journalist Faiza Khan complains.
Beyond the cover’s authenticity, there’s another lingering question. Why the tattoo of Pakistan’s spy agency? Kabeer Sharma, FHM India‘s editor, tells the BBC that he came up with the idea for the tattoo as a joke.
“In India we joke about this,” he explained. “If anything goes wrong … we say the ISI must be behind this.” Malik doesn’t appear to have much of a track record of criticizing the ISI, but she has challenged Pakistani power centers before, making headlines in January by publicly dressing down a Muslim cleric after he chastised her for cuddling with men and wearing inappropriate clothing on the Indian reality show Bigg Boss.
Click below the jump for the full cover, which bizarrely promotes another story on why naked protests are nothing more than amateur porn: