Singer Nahid Afrin was in fact asked not to sing at a college function set to be held close to a mosque and graveyard as musical nights and dancing were deemed “un-Islamic” by 46 community elders in a leaflet they circulated in the state. It was the media which did not get its facts right
By Sucheta Dasgupta
Welcome to yet another instance of misreporting by the media.
On March 15, India’s No. 1 newspaper, The Times Of India, reported on its front page, that Assamese reality TV star Nahid Afrin had been served a fatwa by 46 Muslim clerics asking her to stop performing in public following her singing songs against Islamic State terrorism. The story was titled “Fatwa against teen singer”. In today’s frantic industry atmosphere of copycat journalism, other media outlets, too, felt compelled to (mis)report the story. Some reports mentioned she was being targeted for a performance scheduled in a college in Assam’s Lanka town that is close to a mosque and a graveyard.
And that is how they got exposed—for their neglect to verify the reports, lack of domain knowledge—the reporter should have found out the meaning of the word, fatwa—and their failure to do due diligence to a story.
It so turns out that the purported fatwa is in fact naught but a leaflet circulated in some districts of the state. Its 46 signatories are office bearers of the Assam State Jamiat Ulama and teachers from various madrasas around the state.
A fatwa is a legally non-binding ruling on a point of Islamic law given by a recognized authority issued by a qualified jurist or mufti. The leaflet in question wants the venue of a show in which Afrin is supposed to sing be shifted from Udali Sonai Bibi College as it is in the vicinity of a mosque and graveyard. It also states that musical nights are “anti-Sharia” as is magic, drama, dance and theatre. “If we don’t keep our children away from such things, Allah will not spare any of us,” it reads, and that the proximity of the venue to the mosque would “definitely anger Allah”. The show is slated for March 25.
Later in the day, NDTV issued an apology for reporting unverified news. Scroll, meanwhile, carried a report titled, “The ‘fatwa’ against Assam singer Nahid Afrin that never was”. It quoted the secretary of the Assam State Jamiat Ulama, Maulvi Fazlul Karim Qasimi as saying that no fatwa had been issued in the case.
TOI meanwhile carried a follow-up story on March 16 in its inside pages—“Assam teen singer defies fatwa, says I’m not afraid”. Significantly, however, Afrin was under the impression that she had been issued a fatwa when she first learnt about the matter.
The 16-year-old Class X student, who lives in Biswanath Chariali, a town in northern Assam, got to know about the so-called fatwa, only when “a few media people called up my father last night”. “I didn’t even know what a fatwa means,” she said. “For a few minutes, I thought I had done something wrong and I should give up singing,” she told the media.
However, she did find it in her to stand up against the albeit-less-official opinions of her community elders. “I am speechless. I think my music is God’s gift to me. I will never bow down to it (such rulings and warnings) and never leave singing,” she had said.