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Egregious diktat

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  16 March 2017 12:00 AM GMT

Singing has brought fame to hid Afrin at a very young age, but there is more to her than a sweet voice and precocious talent. A household me at the reality singing TV show ‘Indian Idol Junior’ in 2015, where she went all the way to the fils to be the first runners-up, hid has been taking rapid strides as a performing artiste. Barely into class X, she has not allowed stardom to turn her head. What comes through in her interactions with judges, the audience and media is a remarkable grace and level-headedness far beyond her tender years — a veritable role model for other young aspiring singers. It is thus galling to see her at the centre of an unseemly controversy, with some clerics issuing a so-called fatwa against her. hid is scheduled to perform at a college in Lanka in Hojai district on March 25, but leaflets signed by 46 clerics have been circulated among the locals, calling upon them not to attend the musical show. They have contended that the venue is surrounded by masjids, idgahs, madrassas and graveyards, so any ‘anti-Sharia act there will attract the wrath of Allah’. To be fair, nowhere in the leaflet is hid Afrin’s me mentioned, so it is doubtful whether it at all qualifies to be a fatwa — which by definition is a learned interpretation, legal opinion or ruling on any point of Islamic law, given by a qualified jurist, and is authoritative but non-binding. The Assam State Jamiat Ulama has vigorously denied any fatwa being issued against the teeged singer, while minority student organisations like AAMSU and indigenous Muslim organisations like Sadou Asom Goria Moria Deshi Jatiya Parishad have taken up cudgels on her behalf. The controversy is primarily over the leaflet mentioning some anti-Sharia acts, mely ‘singing, dancing, performing magic and ecting plays’. So the question is — if an artiste performs any such act in a venue that is not objectioble, will he or she be punished for going against the faith? There is, after all, some grounds to suspect that hid is being targeted for singing against terrorism, including acts by the dreaded ISIS. If a campaign has been started to muffle her voice, then this is something the law enforcement agencies need to investigate thoroughly.
It is condemble when cynical elders with their ulterior motives use the force of religion and social boycott to stamp down on whatever they construe as challenge to their authority. We have seen this in the social media trolling against Zaira Wasim, the ‘Dangal’ girl from Kashmir who so convincingly played the younger Geeta Phogat on screen. Producer Aamir Khan has spoken glowingly about her courage and commitment in undergoing a gruelling wrestling regimen for two years despite being a delicate child. Yet this same teeger had to issue an apology, call upon others not to regard her as a role model, and then delete her social media posts. Why? Because, she maged to ruffle some hardliner feathers when she was photographed being congratulated by J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. Later, Zaira’s mother was seen attempting to restore some ‘balance’ when she wrote a pro-Pakistan post! Recently, there was the story of young Suha Sayed, clad in a hijab and singing a bhajan in a Kanda singing reality show, then getting trolled for ‘parading her beauty and by singing film songs in front of men of various communities and receiving praise from them.’ Granted, these are loony fringe elements, but they get a lot of traction in social media. Yet those on the receiving end understandably take alarm, considering instances like the brazen killing of bloggers by fundamentalist elements in Bangladesh. hid Afrin has spoken about her shock on hearing the ‘fatwa’ against her, pleading that she is a singer and music is her life. “Allah has blessed me with this voice for singing, and I’ll die if I am not allowed to sing,” she has said. She has soulfully rendered jikirs and borgeets, jyoti sangeet and rabha sangeet — as much at home with these genres as with modern songs. This State has been blessed with singers of the calibre of Parveen Sulta and Nilima Khatun, lyricist Eli Ahmed, actors like Baharul Islam, Abdul Majid and Adil Hussain, artistes like Syed Sadullah, Mirel Quddus, and Moinul Haque... the list is practically endless. We would like to believe they performed at what they were best at, that which gave them creative joy, even as they remained true to their faith. Surely, the secular ethos and composite culture for which Assam can be justly proud of — should have nothing to do with egregious diktats on artistes, or other honest, hard-working performers, for that matter.

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