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Valley’s girl band duo bow out

- Quit notices come day after fatwa against singing before strangers

Srinagar, Feb. 4: Two of three members of Kashmir’s lone all-girl rock band today called it quits, possibly giving in to the fatwa of Valley chief priest Mufti Bashiruddun and opposition from the hardline Hurriyat.

Guitarist and vocalist Noma Bhatt and drummer Farah Deeba announced their decision on the Facebook page of their group, Praagaash the Band (From Darkness to Light), last night, hours after the decree of the Mufti.

The girls were unavailable for comment and it was not clear if the third member, bass guitarist Aneeqa Khalid, would quit. All three are teenagers and Class X students.

Noma was the first to go public, posting a two-word message “Noma quits”. Farah did the same soon after, saying: “Farah also quits”.

The purported pullouts came even as support poured in from political parties and the National Commission for Women. Commission chairperson Mamta Sharma termed the Mufti’s decree a sign of “double standards” and warned that it would “push society backwards”.

The girls had earlier said they would continue to play on despite alleged online threats and abuses by self-styled moral cops.

That changed yesterday afternoon when the Mufti asked the girls to quit. “If the girls are interested in singing they can do it in their families and not before strangers, which is haraam (forbidden) in Islam… High moral values and decency are a key to nation-building and they should not cross those limits,” he told The Telegraph.

The Mufti also appeared to criticise leaders backing the girls and asked their parents to step in. “They should stop such activities and not get swayed by the support of political leadership… the parents of the girls should impart Islamic education to their girls.”

Bashiruddun also criticised Omar Abdullah, as did separatists, for backing the “indecent and immoral” act of the girls. The chief minister had on Saturday ordered a probe into the threats and urged the girls not to be silenced by a “handful of morons”.

Omar criticised the Mufti in a tweet last night and claimed he was not taken seriously. But the tweet disappeared minutes later, sparking fears it was withdrawn to avoid antagonising the cleric.

But today, Omar promised full security if the girls continued and asserted the state did not function on “dictates from religious leaders”.

“The decision to continue or not continue lies with the band and their families…. If these girls want to continue, the state will do all that is necessary,” Omar told a television channel.

Asked about the fatwa, Omar said: “Jammu and Kashmir is a secular state, of course a Muslim-majority state, but a secular state. This state does not function on dictates from religious leaders… we are bound to uphold the Constitution.”

The hardline Hurriyat faction, led by Syed Ali Shah Geelani, said “there is no room for nourishing western culture and immoral values in Kashmir”. But the group appeared to distance itself from the fatwa by asserting it did not “support any use of force or coercion”.

“No noble family will allow their girls to chose their profession as a dancer. There are some values a citizen has to adopt to safeguard ethical, moral and religious traditions…. The parents should have advised their daughters that their activities are not according to Islam,” spokesperson Ayaz Akbar said.

The separatist Jamaat-e-Islami said the Shariat prohibited “immodest activity, in particular obscene dancing of women in the presence of men”.

But many others disagreed. Kashmiri singer Waheed Geelani said the Valley’s artists extended full support “in this sad and turbulent time”.