Within a couple of hours of Bollywood playback singer Sonu Nigam getting his head shaved, the Muslim religious leader from Kolkata who announced Rs 10 lakh reward for anybody shaving Nigam’s head wriggled out from paying the amount.
Though he promised to pay the amount just a day earlier, Syed Sha Atef Ali Al Quaderi, who is the vice president, West Bengal United Minority Council said on Wednesday that he had put forward three conditions and shaving his head was only one of those.
“The question of paying Rs 10 lakh does not arise, as I had announced the reward not only to shave his head but also to garland him with torn shoes and touring him around the country wearing it,” Quaderi told the media on Wednesday evening.
“It was not a fatwa. I had expressed my opinion,” Quaderi also remarked.
On Wednesday, Nigam got his head shaved at a press conference held at his residence. Hairstylist Aalim Hakim shaved his head.
“Today at 2 pm Aalim will come to my place, and shave my head. Keep your 10 lakhs ready maulavi,” Nigam twitted on Wednesday morning.
The entire controversy was triggered after Nigam twitted on Sunday “I’m not a Muslim and I have to be woken up by the Azaan in the morning. When will this forced religiousness end in India.”
On Wednesday evening, Quaderi also demanded that Nigam has to apologise publicly for his twits.
However, Noor-ur-Rehman Barkati, the imam of Tipu Sultan Mosque of Kolkata who is also known as the “Fatwa Imam” having given fatwas against a number of persons including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and author Taslima Nasreen, told HT that it was not a fatwa. “I had a word with Quaderi, and he clarified to me that it was his opinion to counter that of Sonu Nigam. If the singer can have his freedom of expression, so has anybody else,” Barkati told HT.
The singer also did not single out mosques but was also opposed to public address systems in other religious places of worship such as temples and churches.
The Tipu Sultan Mosque imam who is close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee also said, “If Nigam is disturbed by the sound of namaz and that of temple and church bells, he should shift his house to a spot where none of these reach him.”
Barkati also referred to a litigation in Calcutta high court in the 1990s where a person wanted to include the sound of azaan in the list of noises above 165 decibels to be prohibited. “Former chief minister Siddhartha Shankar Ray fought the petition and the court turned down the plea,” he told HT on Wednesday.
Quaderi is a relatively less prominent name in Kolkata’s cleric circle.
At Wednesday’s press conference, the Bollywood singer also struck a conciliatory note and said that he was sorry if anybody was hurt by his comments.
On Tuesday Quaderi also vowed to hold a protest rally in central Kolkata on Rani Rashmoni Avenue.