The girls banded together to form the band “Praagash”, which means “from darkness to light”, in India's only Muslim-majority state, Jammu and Kashmir. Such a feat is unheard of in their region. The girls, whose music they describe as strongly influenced by heavy metal, started gaining local fame after playing live during a music contest organised by a club in Srinagar.
Video of the band competing in the contest.
While their performance won them many fans, the girls were also attacked by radical Muslims for daring to play in front of men. On their Facebook page, negative comments abound. Some commenters even called them prostitutes, threatened them, and said they would end up getting raped.
The scandal ended up getting the attention of religious authorities. On Sunday, the grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad, the highest Muslim officer in the state, issued a fatwa condemning the young women’s performance. He also took the opportunity to announce that all women and girls should only sing at home — and only in front of the female members of their family, at that. Later that day, the band announced that it was breaking up on its Facebook page.
The story also took on a political dimension when the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdulla, publicized his support for the girl band and demanded an investigation of the threats made online.
Photo of the band posted online.
“The girls never expected this to get so big”
Isham (not his real name) is in a rock band called Naaz. He lives in Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir.
I was with the girls during the competition in Srinagar in December, and I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing shocking in their performance. It’s insane; I’ve been in a rock band for the last three years and have never experienced a single problem. But as soon as it’s girls doing it, people get upset. In fact, I wonder whether after this controversy, men too risk being less free to play rock music.It’s hard to imagine what is going through the minds of these people and why they are shocked. One part of the controversy is due to the fact that they are playing in front of men, but the other issue is that the music is simply considered as “haram” by Muslim extremists. Some of them tolerate traditional Sufi music, but none tolerate western music. This extremist ideology is becoming increasingly prevalent in the region.Photo of the band posted on Facebook.It’s hard to find out who the people are who threatened the girls on Facebook, because they of course created fake profiles. Given the pressure the girls were facing, it was too difficult for them to continue the band.I have spoken to them several times in the last few days, and they are completely devastated. The story has been in the news for about five days, but they have been getting insulted for the last two months. They never expected this story to take on such political-religious dimensions. It’s too much for them. [The young women told the Indian media that they did not want to take up the role of “young Muslim women who are fighting against conservatism”, but that they “just wanted to play music”].[Editor’s note: Isham refused to comment on the fatwa issued against the young women].