About ‘forced religiosity’

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About ‘forced religiosity’

Those targeting Sonu Nigam are truly intolerant

By tonsuring his head, the immensely popular and talented singer Sonu Nigam has send out a scathing message to fundamentalists and pseudo-secularists. Sadly, that message is unlikely to be absorbed by its intended beneficiaries, particularly the vice president of West Bengal Minority United Council, Syed Sha Atef Al Quaderi. The cleric had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh to anyone who would shave Nigam's head for the latter's comment expressing annoyance at having to be woken up early in the morning by the Muslim call for prayer — the Azaan. The singer had opposed the use of loudspeakers and termed it as “forced religiosity” and “goondagardi”. There is absolutely nothing objectionable in Sonu Nigam's remarks and the Bengal cleric had no business to respond in the offensive manner he did. The singer had actually also mentioned temples and gurdwaras, but the clerics and others who are self-appointed custodians of secularism, chose to be selective. Overnight, the singer was termed by these people as ‘communal' and ‘intolerant'. Quaderi even issued what came to be dubbed as a fatwa — though he later clarified that it was just his personal position. Nevertheless, even in his personal capacity, he has no right to issue rewards to those who would belittle the singer for the remarks. Quaderi must understand that his views are at variance with the tolerance that he insists others should have towards people of his religious denomination. In any case, Sonu Nigam had not insulted the Muslim faith; he did not question the prayers or any Islamic tenet. All he did was to show his displeasure at the Azaan call from a public address system. The ‘forced religiosity' point is a pertinent one, and it applies to the actions of people of all faiths. Where was the need for the so-called secularists and the Muslim clerics to be so ruffled? After all, the Supreme Court too has directed that public address systems cannot disturb the peace of citizens at odd hours. The singer's ire was, thus, over being needlessly disturbed — and he has every right as a citizen to express his anger in the non-violent way he did.

The cleric’s reaction, though, should not take anyone by surprise. Such people have often been on the edge and far too finicky when it comes to their turf. A good example is the All Indian Muslim Law Board's stand on triple talaq. The board has sought to complicate a gender-equality issue into one that is intrinsic to Islam. That they are on weak grounds has been brought out by the fact that several progressive-minded people from within the Muslim community have openly revolted and taken the clerics head-on on the latter's claim of the practice being Islamic. They have actually gone a step further by taking the matter to the Supreme Court. The last Uttar Pradesh Assembly election result demonstrated that quite a number of Muslim women, at least in the urban regions, voted for the BJP because of the party's opposition to the practice of triple talaq.

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