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Online petition wants Grand Mufti to quit
Azhar Qadri/ TNS

Support pours in for rock band

It is God who created the artist and it is also God who created the Mufti… we are performing our duty and they are performing their duty.

— Waheed Jeelani, a veteran Kashmiri singer

Srinagar, February 6
An online petition has been launched demanding that the Grand Mufti should step down as Kashmiri singers voiced support to the three teenage girls who were forced to disband their rock band amidst a controversy which pitched conservatives and the clergy against supporters of music.

The petition has been launched by a UK-based Kashmiri student, Omar Bashir, who has asked Mohammad Bashiruddin to step down from the chair of Grand Mufti.

“This is in the context of your recent fatwa against the all-girl band Pragaash. This is less a fatwa and more a direct, misogynistic threat to silence young girls who have chosen for themselves a career path untrodden by women of Kashmir,” the petition reads.

A fatwa was issued by Jammu and Kashmir’s Grand Mufti on Sunday against the rock band. The petition has been launched on change.org website and has been signed by 250 persons so far.

“We appeal you to step down from the Chair of Grand Mufti of Kashmir,” the petition said.

Meanwhile, Kashmiri singers have voiced their support for the three teenage girls. Waheed Jeelani, a successful Kashmiri singer for last 24 years who has lived through the turbulent militancy days and was even briefly abducted in the early 1990s, said he supported the girls.

“It is God who created the artist and it is also God who created the Mufti… we are performing our duty and they are performing their duty,” he said.

Jeelani said his advice to the teenage girls was “kindly don’t quit”. “Continue and don’t give up. We are with you,” he said.

The three young girls, who founded Kashmir’s first all-girl rock band, had to quit after they faced an online hate buzz which was followed by a fatwa, or an advisory, by the region’s Grand Mufti.

Jeelani said he “condemned” the abuses against the girls and was “happy” with the stand taken by the state government. He, however, wanted to tell the girls that “since we are living in a conservative society, we should also take some precautions.” “When something new happens in society, reactions do come.”

“An artiste cannot be stopped from performing anywhere in the world. Nations are known by their literature, art, culture and artistes,” he said.

Aijaz Rah, another successful name in Kashmiri singing and the fledgling music industry, was the judge at the “Battle of Bands” rock band competition where the all-girl band Pragaash made their first and last performance and won the number three position.

Rah said singing was part of Kashmir’s tradition. “Even when we plant rice saplings, we sing. It is part of the tradition. It is our culture,” Rah said.

The recent controversy would have an impact on the local music industry, he said.

A Srinagar resident, Obaid Jan, said the girls were a “soft target” for a fatwa. “Why has the fatwa been issued against these young girls? It is possible they were soft targets. It is possible,” Jan said.

The girls have also found support online, where a Facebook page created in solidarity of the rock band --- I support Pragaash, Kashmir’s first all-girl rock band --- has generated 4,622 likes in the last five days.





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