The verbal exchange between people and politicians of Kashmir triggered after a music performance by a band of school girls in December last year seems far from dying down.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who on Saturday lashed out at the "handful of morons", hurling online abuses against the all-girl-band, faced the ire of valley's grand mufti or the chief priest, Maulvi Bashiruddin and the hardline Hurriyat Conference.
The grand mufti, on Sunday, openly castigated the "political leadership for expressing unnecessary support" to a "shameless act".
"Such trivial acts (singing and playing instruments) never develop society but are a first step to demolish its moral fabric. I am happy that the new generation has attained a pro-development and pro-religion stance but there are some girls treading on the path of destruction," Mufti said in a statement. "They should stop from such activities and not to get influenced by the support of political leadership," he said.
"Omar Abdullah backing the rock band (is) because the dynasty he belongs to have since long disassociated itself from Islamic and ethical values. Though in a civilised society there is no place for coercion and force, yet there are some values a citizen has to adopt to safeguard the ethical, moral and religious traditions," said Ayaz Akbar,spokesman of Syed Ali Geelani.
The band 'Pragaash (morning light)' consisting of three schoolgirls, vocalist-guitarist Noma Nazir, drummer Farah Deeba and guitarist Aneeka Khalid, performed their first live performance at Srinagar's music festival, Battle of the Bands in December last year. After their performance, some facebook users uploaded a picture of the performance which generated praises from some and abuses from few on the social networking websites.
There is a considerable chunk of Muslims in Kashmir who believe such activities ought to be discouraged as they "are deviations from the Islamic way of life", but people in general have never followed a strict interpretation of Islamic principles here.
Kashmir has decades' old history of recognizing public singing and dancing by women on festivals, marriages and cultural programs, although considered un-Islamic by the clergy. Men and women would enjoy the songs of women singers like Zuna Begun and Raj Begum for the past five decades. Among modern singers Shamima Dev, wife of union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, has become a household name.
The band girls have refused to call it quits but said that they won't be performing live for some time.
"The grand-mufti, who termed the girl music band un-Islamic and trivial, has never come out with a statement when women perform traditional dancing like Rouf on government functions like Independence Day and Republic Day, or when radio and TV broadcast traditional songs. Why now?" said Mushtaq Ahmad Lone, an Imam of a mosque in old city.
"The pointless debate won't help anybody but those who want to portray us what we are not," he said. Music has all along been a part of culture and religious functions here. And as the two-decade-old armed violence is waning, youngsters have been taking keen interest in music activities. Many rock bands have come up in the past three years, some writing their own songs to vent their anger against the Centre's rule.