Of threats and opinions
Before we jump to conclusions, we must understand things on their merit
ZEESHAN SHAUKET PANDITH
Omar Abdullah is correct by stating that the Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad did not threaten the Kashmiri all-girl band.
Because a fatwa is not a threat. It should neither be perceived nor issued as a threat.
In fact, the history and nature of fatwa has been largely democratic, contrary to how some elements in the media have been portraying ‘fatwa’ as medieval and dictatorial.
For example, Egypt’s Grand Mufti issued a fatwa in 2001 stating that a popular game show which had a question-and-answer format was un-Islamic. Later, the Sheikh of Cairo’s Al-Azhar University rejected the fatwa because in his view, the show spread ‘general knowledge’. The fact that there exists contradictory fatwa prescribing or proscribing, encouraging or discouraging a certain behavior or practice shows that there is plenty of democratic space for intellectual discussion and even disagreement in Muslim-majority societies, if only the media and the opportunists allow our societies to let democratic discourse run its own course instead of disrupting our own processes by dictating their own values and ideas upon our governments, our religious leaders, and our people.
Speaking of democratic process, a fatwa is not just a top-down flow of communication. It is common for Muslim individuals, families, and organizations to go to a Mufti or a Sheikh and seek ‘fatwa’ to help them decide on everyday issues such as financial dealings and marital affairs. Hence, fatwa is oftentimes a response to questions of Muslims. Furthermore, leaders or priests giving advice to their followers is quite common in many religions. Why pounce on fatwa?
The problem is that some elements in news media choose to highlight fatwa that serves their political propaganda. Cloaked under a campaign for freedom of expression, Arnab Goswami, of Times Now vociferously condemned the fatwa of Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad against singing. MC Kash was singing too, until the Kashmiri rapper’s studio was raided by the police—a clear violation of freedom of expression but an instance which the vitriolic Arnab Goswami chose to overlook at that time. The message of the rah-rah broadcaster’s freedom-of-expression campaign seems to be that one is free to sing as long as one is not singing against human rights violations committed by the Indian military in Kashmir.
Yet, this is not to downplay the threat that the members of the all-girl rock band, Pragaash, have felt. It is a threat indeed, but not from the fatwa, but from society itself. It is a threat that lurks in social structures irrespective of race, class, nation, or religion. From the horrific gang-rape in New Delhi to the recent acid attacks in Kashmir, the threat is clear: violence against women. The hate-mails and hate-comments received by Pragaash in cyberspace can easily translate to acts of violence against women in the streets especially when the media have diverted the attention of the people towards the fatwa instead of the offenders who sent those hate-mails, hate-comments and death threats.
Therefore, instead of parroting Arnab’s persecution of the recent fatwa of the Grand Mufti and his threats against our religion, Muslims must, in fact, seek a fatwa on acid attacks and other unconscionable forms of victimization of women. However, in a heavily militarized area such as Jammu and Kashmir, where mechanisms and laws (such as the AFSPA) protect the perpetrators of thousands of rape cases and other crimes against women in over twenty years, more than just a fatwa by a mufti is needed. It is interesting to note how news media in India was so quick to amplify and blow out of proportion the legal opinion of a Kashmiri mufti about girls and singing, yet slow to magnify the legal opinion of the Justice Verma Committee about rape of Kashmiri women.
The reports and recommendations by Justice Verma Committee to try military offenders in rape cases in criminal courts further validates that more than just an amendment to the AFSPA must be done. The final solution is scrapping the AFSPA and demilitarizing Kashmir.
Hence, for the thousands of Kashmiri girls and women who have been living their daily lives under the threat of rape by military officers enjoying immunity from the law, for our girls and women who have been victimized beyond threats, for those who are victimized in the villages and who have no access to Facebook or the internet to bring their plight to light, for those victims who have suffered years and years but towards whom news media has been silent or silenced, the people of Kashmir must stand up united to seek justice.
Lastupdate on : Fri, 8 Feb 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 8 Feb 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 9 Feb 2013 00:00:00 IST
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