Michael Jackson’s death felt far away in Pakistan

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Los Angeles, California- Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, died unexpectedly on Thursday June 25, 2009 of a cardiac arrest in Los Angeles, California.  He was just 50 years old and was working on staging a comeback with a sold out series of concerts in London in July of this year.

Although Michael Jackson was an American singer and artist, Pakistanis like many people around the world had long adopted him as one of their own. For anyone who thinks that Pakistan is completely consumed by bombs and bullets, that the people in Pakistan only think about the Taliban and terror, know that Michael Jackson was an icon here too.

 Michael Jackson was for me the personification of America long before I set foot on its shores. Growing up in a strict Islamic country like Saudi Arabia, I became familiar with his music in the 5th grade while attending an American school in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.

His MTV music videos were brought to Saudi Arabia by American friends returning from the US and we would watch them at their houses over the summer break. When going to Pakistan for holidays, I would see young men in brightly colored jackets with sleeves pushed up to the elbows, white socks with black shoes, and even gloves on one hand by some of his impersonators. The Thriller album had Karachi, Lahore and other cities by storm. Break dancing became very popular that there were many competitions of break dancing in Karachi and other big cities. Some of my closest friends started to wear similar clothes, practiced his dance moves and started curling their hair in a similar style and fashion.

Michael Jackson defined the childhood and adolescence of many of us in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and many other Muslim countries around the world in addition to countless young people in the United States and Europe and elsewhere. More than his great music, song writing and dance talents, Michael Jackson was a very compassionate and generous man. He was directly and indirectly involved in as many as 43 charities at the time of his death and was instrumental in raising millions of dollars in the 80’s with his “We are the World” concert to benefit Africans suffering from famine.

Jackson’s popularity was immense in Pakistan like elsewhere not because he was not white, or he had helped raise money for charity in the developing world, or as was reported a few years ago that he converted to Islam as his brother Jermaine. But rather it was his music and incredibly original dance moves that the people of Pakistan loved. It was his bootlegged records and tapes of Beat It and Thriller, and the VHS videos of the Thriller video that cemented Jackson as an icon in Pakistan years ago. And not just Pakistan’s middle class was familiar with him, but rather the working poor who did not speak a word of English also knew who Michael Jackson as he was perhaps the biggest celebrity the world has ever known.

Michael Jackson’s death dominated the news and media Friday morning as Pakistanis woke up to learn of his sudden death. To many Pakistanis it feels like one of their own has died.

 Reported for www.PakistanisforPeace.com by Manzer Munir

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  1. Share more about MJ pls: Memories of Michael Jackson: Photo stories, Music downloads, Video collections.

  2. Thriller Videos are always great, i love those dancing zombies *

  3. have you seen those Thriller Video with the prison inmates, geez those are very nice `’:

  4. ~;’ I am really thankful to this topic because it really gives great information ;’~

    • Thank you very much for visiting the site. Glad that it was found useful by you. Please do visit this website often for many others. Regards PfP~

  5. Excellent post!! I really like your site!!

    • Thank you very much! Nice to see visitors from the Land of Smiles! Very nice people, the Thai…knew some friends growing up in school from there…would love to visit the temples and beaches some day as well as the amazing shopping in the capital! Sawadee Krub from Pakistanis for Peace~

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