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Fatwas in the Wrong Land

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  18 March 2017 12:00 AM GMT

As many as 42 Islamic organizations operating in Assam issued a fatwa on Tuesday, March 14, banning popular singer hid Afrin from singing at public functions in Assam. Quite obviously, the fatwas or injunctions were directed mainly at the Bihu songs that hid Afrin would be singing during a function on 25 March and during Rangaali Bihu. These gratuitous fatwas give rise to several pertinent questions that any organization issuing such unconstitutiol injunctions are obliged to answer. The first is the question of authority. From where do such organizations pretend to derive any authority to issue such injunctions about who shall sing or not sing at public functions? There are very eminent Muslim singers, both male and female, who have done our country proud with their music. They have been singing for centuries. We have never had the experience of hearing about any Islamic organization ever having presumed to order our musicians not to sing. In any case, no one has the right to issue such illegal injunctions in a secular democracy. And this year 42 Islamic organizations have arbitrarily decided that hid Afrin shall not sing. They have issued fatwas that she shall not sing. In doing so, they have arbitrarily decided to take away her fundamental right to continue in her present vocation, which is singing, in total and blatant violation of the Indian Constitution. We have the right to ask these 42 organizations whether they have had the decency and the courage to issue 42 separate written fatwas so that hid might take a decision about what she intends to do about the 42 oral fatwas clearly issued out of malice since they seek to take away what 16-year-old hid has been doing. We have a right to ask who gives these 42 organizations the right to do what they have done? Do these organizations honestly expect anyone to accept verbal injunctions as one might accept written injunctions from appropriate authorities? In sending out proper written fatwas such organizations at least indicate that they are prepared to take full responsibility for their actions. When they issue only verbal fatwas, no one is obliged to take such injunctions seriously because only those organizations that are afraid to issue written fatwas (because they know they are illegal) will resort to verbal fatwas.

It is heartening to learn that hid Afrin has not been affected by the fatwas in any way and has decided to continue singing. It is also heartening to learn that the Chief Minister of Assam has urged hid to carry on with her programmes without any fear because he has assured her of all essential security measures. Equally encouraging is the fact that Paresh Baruah, the ULFA chief has also assured hid of full protection. One hopes that her family too will support her brave decision to go on singing regardless of the fatwas. There can be no doubt that the threats issued by 42 Islamic organizations will prove to be no better than empty threats that need not be taken seriously. At the same time, it is important to make everyone understand that we live in a country that has proclaimed itself to be secular where such issues should not arise. People need to understand that the kind of threats that hid has had to face should not constitute only what the government can take care of when it chooses to do so, but should rather be something that does not arise at all. A tion that calls itself secular should be able to tell the world that such threats count for nothing for a tion that knows what the responsibilities of the government are in protecting the rights of citizens. Meanwhile, the government should spare no efforts in identifying the 42 organizations that issued the fatwas and cancelling their registrations (if they are registered organizations) apart from initiating pel action against them for issuing the kind of threats that may be possible only in theocratic countries but certainly not in secular ones.

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