After being threatened by religious leaders and extremists and being chased off stage on social media, Kashmir’s first all-girl band Pragaash announced that it was disbanding. The three girl band consisting of drummer Farah Deeba, guitarist Aneeka Khalid and guitarist-vocalist Noma Nazir quit after a fatwa was issued against their band by Mufti Azam Mufti Bashir-u-Din. Despite immense support from CM Omar Abdullah, the girls decided to stay back in New Delhi after receiving threats from various religious groups whereas their founder band Bloodrockz have also gone into hiding.
Nagpur asked the brave girls from the city to put forth their opinions on this issue and the response was surprising and brilliant.
Kehkashan Fazal, an engineering student of a city college said, “Being passionate about music but at the same time being Muslim, I can understand the dilemma of these girls. However, this issue holds no ground in my opinion. As The Quran does not specifically say anything against singing or playing instruments, the fatwa itself comes into question. I personally feel they should not have bowed down to such pressures, but at the same time respect their wishes. The Quran has specifically stressed on the equality of girls and boys. Thus, if singing and playing instruments is banned for girls, it should be banned for boys as well.”
An outraged Sabrina Khan, an architecture student expressed her disappointment in the interpretations of the holy books. “Music, art, dance or any form of expression has nothing to do with any religion whatsoever. It is sad that Islam sees such wide scale narrow-minded interpretations of its books. In fact in Tehran, Iran- a country of the strictest of Islamic ideals, there still exists an all-women music band. Islam doesn’t degrade any expression. It is this misinterpretation and the power in the hands of these very few that leads to such a fatwa. The girls should resolve to hold their stand and continue. That will be setting an example. At least that will make Indians less judgemental about religions and what religions ‘want’ people to do”, said Sabrina.
Farhana Ali, a CA student, although believes that the ‘peace’ in the Valley is being disturbed. She said, “The banning of the girls rock band in Jammu and Kashmir shows that the religious extremists are getting uneasy with the normalising of the affairs of the state and are somehow trying to create disturbances among the local population so that they can fish in troubled water. It is a very disturbing scenario and I believe that the government should support and encourage the band and rather take action against these extremists.”
While some girls outraged about the situations in the Valley, Dr. Nishat Zubair suggested a practical way of getting rid of problems and maintaining the harmony in the state that is always in news about the absence of amity around the land. Dr. Nishat said, “After hearing that the band has disbanded after getting repeated threats and after having a fatwa issued against them, I felt very unfortunate; we live in a society that is so hypocritical. This incidence has once again brought into light the misogynists who would not want any progress in the fairer sex. On one hand we want the empowerment of women and on the other hand, when talented women come out of their houses and want to do something they are passionate about, they are stopped for some silly reason made by this male dominant society. First of all, music is not ‘haram’. If it is, then this rule must apply to male music bands as well. Had it been a male band, it would have never suffered the plight these women have faced. Stringent actions should be taken against the Mufti and also all those threatening the girls so such things don’t happen again with women who want to emerge and want to full fill their dreams and passions. There should also be a renewal and revision of all rules and regulations of the religions being practiced that suit today’s needs as we are living in a dynamic world where things and situations change daily.”
Mufti Bshir-u-Din’s fatwa was disowned by the government and the Opposition. But Hurriyat hardliner Sayed Ali Shah Geelani made statements like “Parents need to watch over their wards and teach them moral science and help remover waywardness in the society”. In the wilderness of the society’s thoughts about Islam and issues such as these, Nagpur discovered, living in the city, an erudite of all religions besides his own. Mohammad Shahrukh Khan, an engineering student in the city spoke with quotes directly from The Quran. He said, “A fatwa is valid only when someone violates Islamic rules. If no rules are violated, a fatwa is not valid. There are certain sections of The Quran which say music is intoxicating and manipulates a person’s mind, but there are lots of conditions involved in it. If the fatwa issued against the band relates to this context, the fatwa is valid. But if the fatwa is issued because it is a girl’s band, then it does not hold true because The Quran, which is the highest order of law in Islam clearly stresses on the equality of both genders. “
The city is the home for many bands and young musicians. Taking their thoughts into consideration in this matter where music and the passion for music in the hearts of our youth, several musicians conveyed their thoughts on this issue. Palash Protim Boruah of the band Phoenix said, “Musicians make music. Music is divine. It is superior and it means everything to us. Just putting in some English lines to music doesn’t categorize it as Western Music and obviously, playing Western music even otherwise should not be against Islam. Music is a ‘Right to choose’ to make music. It’s not about religion. To be able to make music is a great talent and it is like touching unknown and new horizons. Musicians draw meaningful conclusions into their music, which is also a blessing. And to Pragaash, I would say that they should not give up something which makes them happy. The band should be supported in all aspects. For the greater good; they might bring fame to our country in the future. We Indians would love to hear the Kashmiri touch they would have in their songs. Music is not bounded by the strings of nationalism or religious beliefs and neither based on gender. It’s a free world, everyone has the right to explore this world and it’s just sad to hear about such a thing happening in our country.”
Abhishek Acharya, the drummer for the band Prok-C said, “This issue that has been made about the girl rock band is simply a slap on the face of our Indian Constitution that says women are equivalent to men. Music connects us to God; they are contradicting their own principles by issuing a fatwa against a girl band. Religion is made by us humans and God himself must be laughing at his creations right now. Stopping music for the sake of religion in itself is too much of being against God. “
Stefan Mathew, a musician and a fan of Sufi music himself said, “This incident brushes off the very essence of music that is to be liberal, to be able to express one’s thoughts or emotions. It only implies the old school of thought of the “insecure” male dominant society.”
The country is facing another moment of distress, this time because of a disagreement between religious beliefs. We have unemployment, poverty, corruption and many other issues to deal with right now. The country needs a reality check and needs to rediscover the bonds of brotherhood that seem to have been buried deep under the weight of such issues which are actually just petty.