Two young singers, who happen to be Muslim, have recently come under attack from those claiming to speak on behalf of Islam.

 

A Mumbai-based organisation, Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy, has released a strong statement, supporting the young singers and condemning “the attempts of certain Muslims who with their blinkered brand of Islam seek to silence the nightingales of Indian Islam”.

Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy describes itself as “a forum of Indian Muslims committed to the values of democracy, secularism, equality and justice as enshrined in the UN’s ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ and the Constitution of India”. These values, it believes, “are fully in consonance with the core teachings of Islam”.

Following is the full text of the statement issued on behalf of the forum by its convener, Javed Anand.

Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy applauds the achievements of two young Muslim women, Nahid Afrin (Assam) and Suhana Sayed (Karnataka), who have wowed music lovers cutting across religions with their outstanding singing talents.

And it condemns the attempts of certain Muslims who with their blinkered brand of Islam seek to silence the nightingales of Indian Islam.

In the latest instance of dissonant discourse, 46 Muslims from Assam, maulvis and madrassa teachers included, have put out a pamphlet seeking to muzzle the 16-year-old Nahid Afrin who was the first runner-up in the 2015 season of a musical TV reality show.

Five days earlier, 22-year-old Suhana Sayed was trolled by an outfit that identified itself as “Mangalore Muslims” after she received a standing ovation at a Kannada reality TV show for her superb rendering of a bhajan in praise of Lord Balaji. The judges even applauded the young hijab-wearing woman as a “symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity.”

The pamphleteers from Assam and the trolls from Mangalore are cultural misfits who seem to have imbibed nothing of India’s composite culture where for centuries Hindus and Muslims have dressed alike, shared the same cuisine, spoken the same language, sung, danced and played music together.

Who hasn’t heard of Bismillah Khan, or Allah Rakha’s jugalbandi with Ravi Shankar? Or Mohammad Rafi singing, Hari Om! Man tadpat Hari darshan ko aaj with lyrics by Shakeel Badayuni and music composed by Naushad?

Suhana who was warned that even “her parents will not go to heaven” because of her sinful act reportedly went “underground”. But the gutsy Nahid is not so easily frightened.

“I was shocked and broken from inside at first, but many Muslim singers gave me inspiration to not quit music, will never do so,” she has told the media.

Bravo, Nahid. Be not afraid, Suhana.

Through the simple act of singing their songs, they project an image of Muslims at peace with the world. In striking contrast, through their pamphleteering and threat of hell-fire, the maulanas of Assam and the “Mangalore Muslims” present before others the unpleasant picture of bigoted Muslims and an intolerant Islam.

Sing on Nahid, sing on Suhana. Indian Muslims for Secular Democracy is proud of you.