Fanatic threat on artistes shameful

The pressure being brought to bear on a young Assamese singer Nahid Afrin against performing at an event on March 25 is not an isolated case. Threats and intimidations are commonly used against artists, singers, writers and even ordinary individuals to silence them or to prevent them from expressing themselves on one ground or another. These grounds usually relate to purported hurt or violation of sensitivities linked to religious, caste, community or regional sentiments. A leaflet signed by 42 clerics, which is in circulation, has warned Nahid Afrin against performing ‘anti-Sharia acts’. It says that a musical show at a venue surrounded by masjids, idgahs, madrasas and graveyards is against the Sharia. The leaflet mentions ‘singing, dancing, performing magic and enacting plays’ as anti-Sharia. The orthodox notion that these forms of art are against religion has been long rejected by artistes and Islamic thought. To use it to inhibit and oppress a gifted teenaged singer is wrong.

Nahid Afrin won laurels at the reality singing TV show Indian Idol Junior in 2015 and has performed widely, attracting admiration and adulation. Though she was not named specifically in the pamphlet, it is clear that she is the target. Entrenched patriarchal and anti-woman attitudes also may have played a part in the restrictions sought to be imposed on her. There have been other cases of targeting of artistes in the name of religion. There was social media trolling against ‘’Dangal’’ actor Zaira Wasim, who had to issue an apology. Another young singer from Karnataka, Suhana Sayed, who was clad in a hijab and sang a bhajan at a Kannada reality show, was trolled for ‘parading her beauty and singing film songs in front of men of various communities and receiving praise from them’.

These are only a few cases of talented women being oppressed by religious and social orthodoxy. There may be many others which have not come to public notice. In these and other cases, the victims have suffered as women and as individuals. The freedom of expression and the right to livelihood which are constitutionally guaranteed to citizens have been denied to them. These are enjoyed by artistes not as special rights but as ordinary rights of citizens. Invocation of religious and other sentiments to curb these rights is unacceptable, whether it is done by the majority community, the minority or others. One salutary aspect of the controversy is that Nahid Afrin has got wide support from the society including Muslim organisations and social media. She has not capitulated too.

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