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Kashmir's only all-girl band Pragaash quits after fatwa

AFP - Getty Images, file

Kashmir's first all-girl rock band Pragaash perform at the annual 'Battle of the Bands' in Srinagar on Dec. 23, 2012.

EDITOR'S NOTE: NBC News obscured the faces in this photo to protect the band members' identities because of safety concerns.

The only all-girl band in India’s troubled Kashmir region has split up after a controversial Muslim cleric issued a fatwa against them.

However, the cleric -- Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad – is now facing a backlash with a leading human-rights lawyer planning to take him to court over his claim that the band, Pragaash, was un-Islamic and other pronouncements.

After the fatwa, the three teenage girls received online threats prompting police to arrest three people, according to several reports including one by BBC News.

Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, said on Twitter that he was “glad” that arrests had been made.

In an interview with India’s NDTV, a band member named as Aneeka, who is still in high school, insisted that “nothing has forced us to quit.”

“We quit for the happiness of our people. As the grand mufti said, it is un-Islamic ... that’s why we quit,” she said. NDTV pixilated her face when the interview was broadcast.

“Mufti … is a saint. He knows about our religion and must be respected,” Aneeka added.

'They feel very harassed'
However, for human rights lawyer Parvez Imroz, of the Jammu & Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, the fatwa against Pragaash was the last straw and he is now planning to take Ahmad to court.

“The lives of these girls were threatened. They feel very harassed,” he said.

Imroz, who is Muslim, said the grand mufti had appointed himself to the role and set up his own “supreme court.”

Ahmad's comments about Pragaash were the latest in a number of “very controversial” fatwas over the last few years, Imroz said, including calling for Americans to leave Kashmir and for Christians to appear in his court.

“We are filing the case because he’s claiming to be some ‘grand mufti.’ Under no law is there any such title,” the lawyer said. “Kashmir is very tolerant. Music … is part of our culture. These girls, they have a right to do it, but I’m telling you we are raising the bigger question about this institution in the society, this self-appointed priest and mufti who has been giving a very reactionary … view of Islam.”

Imroz said he wanted the court to rule that Ahmad had no legal standing, describing him as a “non-entity.”

Kashmir is claimed by India and Pakistan, which have fought two wars over the region. It is the only state in India where the majority of people are Muslims.

In comments posted on NDTV’s website, some expressed their anger at the criticism of the band.

“We're heading in prehistoric era thanks to morons,” one said.

“It's really disheartening to see such narrow views are still being propagated in the country,” another added.


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