Kashmir girl band quits after Muslim cleric's fatwa | Asia Pacific

Kashmir girl band quits after Muslim cleric's fatwa

Kashmir girl band quits after Muslim cleric's fatwa

Updated 5 February 2013, 22:19 AEST

In Indian Jammu and Kashmir, where the region's first all-girl rock band has been forced to break up, after a senior cleric labelled them 'un-Islamic'.

The three-member group, 'Pragaash', which means 'From Darkness to Light' was first targetted in an online hate campaign, after winning the 'Battle of the Bands' talent quest in December.

Now, the Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Bashiruddin Ahmad, has issued a fatwa or religious ruling, ordering the girls to break up.

However, the girl band has its own supporters, including the media and those who feel that hardline Muslim conservatives should NOT dictate the cultural mores of Kashmiri society.

Many in the Kashmir Valley it seems, support the girls' right to make music.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Prabodh Jamwal, Editor of the Kashmir Times, Jammu and Kashmir, India

JAMWAL: This is one of the major stories, since it involves all the civil society, general public, citizens and everybody in the whole of Jammu and Kashmir. It's a major issue, which has created a sort of controversy about the role of the clerics and those who were opposed to the playing of the rock band, and their performances in Jammu and Kashmir.

LAM: Is this issue indicative of the division in Kashmiri society, between the slightly more secular, and the highly-conservative Islamic clerics?

JAMWAL: Since I believe that Jammu and Kashmir is not a highly-conservative society, it has been a very open society, very progressive, I think women have every right to education and performances and other sorts of activities related to culture, literature and the performing arts. So, I don't think that we can classify Jammu and Kashmir as a conservative society.

Now and then, clerics have been acting on their own, or trying to enforce their own sort of Islamic fundamentals (sic) on the whole of the society. In fact, in the beginning of the early 1990s, when women education was targetted by some of the clerics, they (the clerics) were isolated by the entire society, people refused to listen to their dictates and the Fatwas issued by them were also flouted. And in fact, they were opposed by society as a whole.

LAM: So would it be fair to say, that the Grand Mufti's issuing of a Fatwa, that it doesn't really have widespread public support, in disbanding this girl group?

JAMWAL: In fact, the problem started only after some people posted abuses and objected to the performances of the all-girl rock band, about a month back or so.

At that time, when these things were happening on the social networking sites, some of the people opposed it, and some of the people supported the rock band because when they were playing, they were open, they were holding their performances, nobody noticed it and nobody opposed it. People were very encouraging for the entire rock band group.

LAM: Would it be fair to say that the state government has shown great reluctance in standing to these very conservative Muftis?

JAMWAL: The problem is that the government does not want to initiate an action against him (the Grand Mufti) when the whole of the society is opposed to the utterances of the cleric, why should the government remain silent? Why should they be reluctant in initiating an action against him in a free society?

LAM: So the government had been reluctant to act?

JAMWAL: Ya, ya.

LAM: Critics of the Grand Mufti have said that singing has been a part of Kashmiri culture and that there had been many famous women singers in the past - so, are women entertainers fairly acceptable in Jammu and Kashmir?

JAMWAL: You see, the majority of these musical concerts which have been taking place in Jammu and Kashmir, they have been Sufi-ana, soft music, related to - I think you understand - the (Sufi musical) heritage which we have, which have been considered by some of the fundamentalist Islamic clerics as un-Islamic. But they (the Sufi singers) go ahead with it, society is with them, society listens to them, society follows them. And then, Sufis are always revered by the society.

It has been a tradition they continue to follow, like Lala Ded, who has been a Sufi singer, Sufi composer, she's still revered by the majority of the people in Kashmir, the whole of Kashmir. In fact, outside Kashmir - she, Lala Ded is one of the women who's revered by the entire society.

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