Kashmir's Grand Mufti Maulana Bashir-ud-Din will try and have us believe that he was being patriotic when he asked Pragaash, an all-girl rock outfit, to disband. Insisting that the teenaged girls should wear a veil and give up 'un-Islamic' singing, the Mufti said, "This will only help the country. It will bring peace and order." Ironically, the young musicians then received death threats and abuse on social networking platforms. A supportive chief minister Omar Abdullah deleted a tweet he had left on the matter. The CM surely knows the expansive limits of the Mufti's influence. But even though a girl forsaking the guitar for the burqa seems tragic enough, more worrying is the Mufti's larger view on gender relations.
Like Asaram Bapu, who had little political correctness to put on display last month, the Mufti has gone on record to say that the group should be blamed if any unfortunate incidents take place. It's because they have invited men, it's not the "opposite gender's fault". It seems apparent that rather than correct the ills of their society, the country's varied godmen and religious preachers only perpetuate a culture of misogyny that inevitably propels acts such as the December 16 gang rape. By disallowing an all-girl band from singing in Kashmir or by disrupting a show of nude art in the Capital, these religious forces actively hijack a movement that seeks to reinstate a woman's rights and provide safety.
The VHP's women's wing, the Durga Vahini, have been appalled by an art show titled, 'The Naked and the Nude'. A VHP spokesperson said such representation was uncalled for, especially in the wake of Delhi's brutal gang rape. Artists like FN Souza would surely have been aghast if you tried to convince them that their disfigured nudes could inspire a man or juvenile to rape. Their freedom to paint the female form or a rock band's right to play music should first be safeguarded. If not, we will soon start resembling Saudi Arabia, where a cleric issued an edict last year calling for female babies to wear burqas. We seem only a step away from being that ridiculously claustrophobic.