Another ‘Victory’!

The Grand Mufti of Kashmir, Mufti Basheeruddin must be proud man indeed and so would be both factions of the Hurriyat as well as the Dukhtaran-e- Millat Chief, Asiya Andrabi .  And they certainly have reasons to be so, since they have just saved us from a colossal moral catastrophe which had emerged in the form of an all girl ‘rock band’. The threat posed by three teenage girls singing songs and playing musical instruments appears to be a serious one, so they would have us believe. The Grand Mufti needs to be complimented for educating us on how “Such trivial acts never develop a society but are a first step to demolish its moral fabric.” The Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, too deserves credit for expressing similar views that the “rock band” of Kashmiri girls was “against moral values”. And when the Hurriyat (G) also declares that “such acts are un-Islamic,” one cannot just brush aside these observations coming from the learned and the wise!

Why no one objected when this band, which gave its first live performance at Srinagar’s music festival, ‘Battle of the Bands’, in December last year is surprising.  But what is most surprising is the glaring mix-up in the reasoning being offered now by these luminaries.  While the Grand Mufti and the Mirwaiz, who are the religious heads see the emergence of an all girl ‘rock band’ as a moral issue, the Hurriyat (G) chairman Geelani, who is a primarily a political persona, views it as a religious one. And so, while outsiders may find both the belated opposition and this reversal of roles surprising, the people of Kashmir are used to such things. But even the people of Kashmir who are proud of their rich Sufi culture, must have been surprised at the sudden turn of events that were parked off by an objection to the band’s rendition of a composition of Bulleh Shah who himself was a Sufi saint!

If Bulleh Shah was alive today, I am sure that he would not have been the least surprised when the rendition of his composition by the first Kashmiri all girl ‘rock band’ sparked off such a controversy that it culminated with the Grand Mufti issuing a ‘fatwa’ against them. For in his lifetime, Bulleh Shah, a Sufi saint was so despised by the clergy for his forthright views which questioned their parochial religious interpretations that when he died, they refused to allow his burial in the local graveyard. Though accused of being an infidel, the fact of the matter is that he like all other Sufi saints and reformists never spoke against Islam, or for that matter, any religion. All he did was to speak out against the hypocrisy of both Muslim and Hindu religious preachers and their wily ways of using religion to fan communal hatred instead of promoting brotherhood, compassion and religious tolerance.

It is not intended to either support or condemn the all girls ‘rock band’ by delving into the quagmire of religious or moral interpretations regarding musical performances. However, one cannot overlook the fact of how our society, which prides itself for religious tolerance, is rapidly drifting towards narrow- mindedness and bigotry. So, when the Mirwaiz says that, “We belong to the land of Sufi saints, where there is no place for musical concerts. It is ironic that our girls are now being diverted towards westernisation,” he is plainly guilty of gender bias. And when such an observation comes from none other than the exalted Mirwaiz himself, then it bodes ill for the society in general and the fairer sex in particular. And the ‘fatwa’ issued by the Grand Mufti of Kashmir exacerbates the issue further.

However, it is the flip- flop reaction of the CM Omar Abdullah on this issue that has been the most disappointing. After coming out in full support for the all girls band by twittering, “Talented teenagers should not let themselves be silenced by a handful of morons,” Abdullah suddenly retracted his veiled reference to the Grand Mufti’s ‘fatwa’ by telling a New Delhi based TV channel that “He (Grand Mufti) hasn’t actually threatened them, he just told them to stop.” This is certainly not a sudden realisation or a well-considered afterthought, but merely a lame excuse to defend his government’s inaction against the Grand Mufti. And the CM is certainly fooling no one when he tried to put up a brave front by saying that, “Were he (Grand Mufti) to have threatened the security of the girls… then that would have been a different situation.” Omar Abdullah certainly knows how to eat the cake and have it too!

Though the Hurriyat (G) has stated that it “doesn’t support coercion in any way” and supporters of the Grand Mufti too have clarified that the ‘fatwa’ is merely expression of an opinion and not a binding edict, the all girl band knows better. For those living in Kashmir it is common knowledge that threats are no more in vogue and instead people are now, merely ‘advised’. And doesn’t the Dukhtaran-e-Millat Chief, Asiya Andrabi’s cryptic response (to the “We Quit” decision of the all girls rock band) that, “We appreciate their decision. We are happy that they took a right decision at the right time,” remind you of the famous quote from Mario Puzo’s novel, ‘The Godfather’ (modified in plural to suit the situation) – “we’re gonna make them an offer they can’t refuse!

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