Obscurantism:

A WOMAN’S PLACE IS AT HOME…’

Says the grand mufti of J&K though his daughter-in-law is a scientist working in Abu Dhabi

Mohammed Wajihuddin | TNN

 

    The original job of Jammu and Kashmir’s state-backed Mufti Azam (Grand Priest) Bashir-u-Din was to confirm moon sightings before Eid and Bakrid. That was till a couple of years ago. Now Bashir-u-Din is known more for his fatwas, the latest of which declared that the state’s first all-girl band, Pargaash, is “un-Islamic”.
The fatwa earned him admiration as well as hatred in the cyber sphere depending on which side of the debate you were on. Pargaash has called it quits and the Mufti is unrepentant and ecstatic. “I am glad the girls have abandoned the band. We cannot allow our daughters to get exploited by the Western culture,” he says on phone from his home in Soura on the outskirts of Srinagar. “There are so many other decent fields for girls to excel in. I have never met them but was shown the videos and thought this needed to be stopped.”
In his mid-70s, Bashir-u-Din says he was appointed Grand Mufti by late Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, the state’s last prime minister in 1960. A third generation mufti, neither Bashir-u-Din’s father Kawam-u-Din nor grandfather Jalal-u-Din ever issued fatwas, though they were held in reverence. But with a Masters degree in Arabic from the Aligarh Muslim University and the knowledge of Islam — which he says he received at a local madrassa in Srinagar — Bashir-u-Din has taken on the task of righting many “wrongs” in society.
Why did he oppose the all girl-rock band? “According to Islam, a woman’s preferred place is her home. She should step out or do a job only when it is essential,” he says. This theory had been stated earlier too in a fatwa issued by Darul Uloom in Deoband, an institution that many now jokingly refer to as India’s “fatwa factory”. Incidentally, the mufti’s own daughter-in-law, Dr Neelofar Ali, works as a scientist in Abu Dhabi.
Bashir-u-Din surprised many when, in 2011, he appointed himself the chief of the self-styled Supreme Court of Islamic Shariat. “No one had heard of this post in the Valley before he floated it and started using it on his letterhead,” recalls a local journalist who has been following his pronouncements over the years. The mufti stunned everyone by appointing his son Nasirul-Islam as his successor in 2000. Islam had lived for years in Abu Dhabi where he is reported to have business interests and a legal consultancy job. He was an unlikely candidate for the Grand Mufti’s job.
Though J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah criticized the mufti, critics allege that it was at his government’s behest that the mufti issued a fatwa against stone-pelting in the Valley. The separatists alleged that the mufti was doing the government’s bidding. “I am doing only Allah’s bidding. I am not on government’s pay-roll. You journalists are out to malign me,” he says and hangs up.
TRACK RECORD
The Grand Mufti first made news when he issued a fatwa in 2007 against Ghulam Nabi Azad, then Jammu & Kashmir’s chief minister. When Azad had asked people to emulate Mahatma Gandhi, the mufti, through a fatwa, declared this “un-Islamic”.
He has since targeted many, including four Christian pastors allegedly involved in conversions in the Valley. The pastors denied the charge.
Last year, he asked Americans to leave the valley after an anti-Prophet video angered Muslims across the world. “I didn’t ask all Christians and Americans to leave the valley. I have enough evidence to prove that a few Christian priests are luring Muslim youth in the Valley to Christianity,” he says.

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