Be very scared each time you hear the words “Grand Mufti.” The first thing it reminds us of is the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Islamic cleric and extremist leader of Jerusalem who personally oversaw the massacre of Jews not once but twice. The story of how he ordered the slaughter of thousands of Jews in Palestine first in 1929 and then in 1936, is a sickening episode of history. The reason: Jews were the enemy whose fate was death. And this fate was decreed by Islamism-crazed leaders like Amin al-Husseini. Not too unlike Adolf Hitler whose genocide of Jews was rooted in irrational, extreme racial hatred. It was therefore no coincidence that Amin al-Husseini made overtures to Hitler on the platform of a shared hatred of Jews. Hitler obviously didn’t disappoint. He offered his assistance to the Grand Mufti in this murderous project.
In the Grand Mufti’s case, it was religious intolerance that acted as the motive force. In Hitler’s case, it was racial hatred.
And so, when you hear of a fatwa issued by a certain self-styled Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad in Jammu and Kashmir, you do get the jitters. This little-known fanatic emerged from nowhere and silenced the all-girl music band named Pragaash with a single fatwa. But let’s hear it from the horse’s mouth.
The statement I have given for the girl is that they cannot relate with such things as music. I suggest them to think and abide by what Islam says. This is not good. Whatever condition our country is in all these uprisings is because of the shameful behaviour of people. That’s why it’s better for girls to stay behind veils… The way these girls dress up in revealing clothes is not good. They should be blamed if any unfortunate incidents take place with them. It’s because they invited men, and it’s not the opposite gender’s fault. Co-education is not good. They should be educated separately from boys. This will help improve the condition of the country. I suggest that whatever they want to do, they should not do publicly… They should sing in their rooms, or within the family, but singing in public, in front of unknown men, I do not appreciate that… They should remain in veil. And should always keep their heads covered. [Underlining added]
A measure of how “effective” his fatwa was can be gauged from the instantaneous campaign of hate that was unleashed on Facebook and over email against the hapless music band. If this was the horrific impact in the virtual world, the real world tells a different story. The girls reportedly received threats from the Grand Mufti’s goons if they didn’t stop their “haram” behavior. And so the parents of these terrorized girls were petrified into packing their wards off to undisclosed locations outside Srinagar.
As for political reactions, all that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah could manage was a tweet that read as follows: "I hope these talented young girls will not let a handful of morons silence them." Apologetic to say the least. If Omar Abdullah was really serious, he’d have put this bigoted Grand Mufti behind bars for criminal intimidation before putting out that tweet.
How different is Bashiruddin’s fatwa from the Saudi cleric Sheikh Abdullah Daoud’s twisted statement that all female newborns should wear the veil, which apparently helps them protect against sexual attacks?
Actually, it’s clear that Daoud wasn’t far from the truth when we examine the hideous incident of yet another Saudi cleric and preacher named Fayhan al-Ghamdi. Fayhan al-Ghamdi raped and tortured Lama al-Ghamdi, his 5-year old daughter for a prolonged period. Here are the results:
· The child’s back was broken and she had been raped and burned.
· She suffered multiple injuries that included a crushed skull, broken ribs, and extensive bruising and burns.
· She died in October 2012 from her injuries after ten months in hospital.
The worse is yet to come. Fayhan admitted to this monstrosity and was imprisoned. But he merely served a few months in jail and in a cruel twist of justice, got out in a breeze by paying about $48000 as “blood money.” This is because Islamic law provides no punishment except a monetary fine to men who kill their womenfolk even if they are family.
Given this incident, I don’t think Daoud’s fatwa is entirely unreasonable. And neither is this an isolated incident. In 2011, Great Britain’s Channel 4 embarked on an investigation into the state of Madrassas in England. The results, which were filmed, revealed shocking child abuse including kicking and beating of children as young as four. If this happens in a democratic country like England, the less said about Saudi Arabia, the better.
Underscoring all this is a strand of virulent intolerance which enforces—with violence if required—the rule of a handful of religious zealots who hold society hostage on the altar of inhuman fatwas, which have neither logic nor application both in the individual and social spheres. This is the exact nature of Bashiruddin’s fatwa, too. In terms of the actual consequence, it might not be as stark as that of the Saudi incidents but both the motive and the essence remain the same. More importantly, a precedent has been set. Bashiruddin’s fatwa has bombed the all-girl music band out of existence thereby sending a message. There’s little chance or hope that similar bands will emerge in Jammu and Kashmir at least in the near future.
And this is how small, perverse “victories” are scored by bigots like Bashiruddin. Indeed, his reaction upon hearing the dissolution of Prayaash was one of jubilance. The next time he issues another similar fatwa, it will be carried through with little or no resistance thus undermining the rule of law to that extent.
As usual, the media and the chatterati have been tone deaf and completely mute. Apart from making the right noises about the “unfortunate fate of Prayaash” no strong condemnation much less activism has ensued. This kind of condemnation and activism pours forth in deluges when the likes of the late M.F Hussain are “hurt.”
The self-styled Grand Mufti, Bashiruddin Ahmad might be small fry. Which makes it all the more worrying. The fact that this small fry’s threat was actually effective is a huge cause for concern. Let’s not forget the dangerous precedent set by the Owaisi brothers. They are by all means small fry. Yet, as events over the past two years have shown us, they’ve managed to immobilize the Central Government, which has either silently acquiesced or cowered in fear even as they heaped outrage upon outrage.
Sure, Omar Abdullah, the Hurriyat and the rest have distanced themselves from Bashiruddin’s fatwa and his fanatical antics. Yet, none of these worthies have shown the moral courage to show him his rightful place. Nor given security and assurance to Prayaash to continue their music. One wonders whether Jammu and Kashmir is governed by the Indian Constitution or by the crazed pronouncements of a sectarian Mullah’s fatwas.