Sonu Nigam takes cleric up on challenge to get head shaved, invites press as witness
A Kolkata-based cleric has announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh to anybody who can tonsure Sonu Nigam and garland him with old shoes, days after the Bollywood singer tweeted his displeasure about being woken up by the sound of azaan, the Muslim call to prayers, from a neighbouring mosque.
“If anyone can shave his hair, put a garland of old torn shoes around his neck and tour him around the country, I shall personally reward that person with Rs 10 lakh,” Syed Sha Atef Ali Al Quaderi, the vice-president of West Bengal United Minority Council, said on Tuesday.
“If we all become so intolerant of each other’s religions, we will soon have a bunch of atheists in our country. People like Nigam should be driven out of the country,” Quaderi added.
The general secretary of the West Bengal United Minority Council Shabbir Ali also took a dig at the Bollywood singer and said that more than the sound of namaz, people are disturbed by the “cacophony from his music studio and during his concerts.”
Quaderi vowed to hold a protest rally in central Kolkata on Rani Rashmoni Avenue. The cleric also took a jibe at Nigam and said he took recourse to this cheap remark to attract publicity since his career is sagging.
The singer reacted to Quaderi’s call in a series of tweets on Wednesday, saying “So this is not religious Gundagardi” and that he will get his hair shaved.
“Today at 2pm Aalim will come to my place, and shave my head. Keep your 10 lakhs ready Maulavi ... And Press is welcome to participate at 2pm,” he said.
As reports called Quaderi’s diktat a fatwa, Noor-ur-Rehman Barkati, the imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan Mosque, refused to call it one. Barkati is known as the “Fatwa Imam” for announcing edicts against political leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and authors Salman Rushdie and Taslima Nasreen.
“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 can anybody else,” Barkati told Hindustan Times.
A fatwa is a religious decree and essentially has to be written and documented.
“If Nigam is disturbed by the sound of namaz and that of a temple and church bells, he should shift his house to a spot where none of these reach him,” the Tipu Sultan Mosque imam, who is close to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, added.
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.
Nigam’s remarks about azaans continued to trigger a storm on social media.
“God bless everyone. 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,” Nigam had tweeted on Sunday.
He argued for an end to the use of public address systems and even said that there was no electricity in the times of the Prophet.
After being trolled, Nigam tweeted more clarification saying that he isn’t only against mosques’ use of loudspeakers but that by temples and gurudwaras as well.
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