The Grand (standing) Mufti of Kashmir

Kashmir Grand Mufti

His decree may have led to the virtual disbanding of the Valley's first all-girls rock band, but the status of Mufti Bashir-ud-din itself remains a grey area. He is the "official Grand Mufti" of Kashmir heading the "Supreme Court of Islamic Shariah". However, the first no one is willing to confirm, and the second has no legal standing.

For more than two decades, Mufti Bashir's name surfaced only in news bulletins of the state media, and only on the eve of Eids. He would declare whether the moon for Eid had been sighted or not, an announcement very few in the Valley actually took seriously. He also settled individual matrimonial dispute cases for a long time, without any mention of the "Supreme Court" that now provides an umbrella to his decrees.

Lately, however, the Mufti has been quick to jump into issues with traction in the Valley's surcharged atmosphere. Recently, he came to the limelight when a video clip of an alleged forced conversion of Muslims to Christianity surfaced in Srinagar. He issued summons against Christian pastor C M Khanna, who was shown in the video clip baptising Muslim youth. He also summoned two Kashmir University professors and gave a verdict against the Christian pastor. Others too were accused of forced conversions and asked to leave the Valley. Khanna moved out to Jammu.

In case of the girls band, he called the move "the first step towards destruction". Asserting that "singing is not in accordance with Islamic teachings", he asked the girls to give it up. "It will not help them play any constructive role in society," Bashir said. "For some girls this mirage (music) is the elixir of life. They are on the wrong path and they should watch their steps."

Ask government officials about how much weight the Mufti carries, and there is an uncomfortable silence. Nobody confirms his "official" status or whether he receives any government help of any sort. On Monday, the National Conference said he had no official standing.

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