Kashmir girl band Pragaash questions 'un-Islamic' tag

Kashmiri author Waheed Mirza said the teenagers were "being used"

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One of the members of an all-girl rock group in Indian-administered Kashmir has queried why they have been described as "un-Islamic" when male bands are allowed to perform.

She told the BBC that their intention was not to disrespect Islam, as alleged by the region's most senior cleric.

The teenager confirmed reports that the group, Pragaash, had disbanded.

Meanwhile, police are investigating allegedly intimidating comments posted on Facebook against the group.

"We will identify them through their IP addresses," a police official told the BBC.

The girls say they have received abuse and hate mail on Facebook since they made their first live appearance at the Battle of the Bands music festival in Srinagar in December.

"Music was our passion. We did not know it was haraam [un-Islamic]," the girl band member told BBC Hindi by telephone on Tuesday.

"There are many artists from Kashmir who are performing. But they did not issue a fatwa against them. They did not stop them... But we are being stopped.

"We respect their opinion and we have quit. But I don't know why we are being stopped," she said.

'Indecent behaviour'

On Sunday the Muslim-majority state's grand mufti criticised the girl band for what he said was indecent behaviour.

"When girls and young women stray from the rightful path... this kind of non-serious activity can become the first step towards our destruction," Grand Mufti Bashiruddin Ahmad said in a statement.

Many others have leapt to the girls' defence, however. Support for a band which has broken with tradition has poured in from all over the state and elsewhere in India, where the story has been headline news.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has promised police will investigate the threats and that the state will ensure their security.

Meanwhile, a well-known Bollywood composer has also offered to help the band.

"Please don't stop making music due to the fear of some random lunatics. It is our duty as custodians of our talent to reach people, and to sing stories of the human soul," Vishal Dadlani said in a post on their Facebook page.

He offered to help the girls with travel and accommodation to Mumbai and pay for their "studio recording, releasing and promotion of an album of your music".

The girls, however, are not planning to take him up on his offer.

"I want to say thanks to music director Vishal, but we do not want to continue. No one is Kashmir is supporting us," the band member told BBC Hindi.

Jammu and Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state and has been the scene of a violent insurgency against Indian rule since 1989.

The region has a long history of women dancing and singing in public at festivals and marriages, even though some clerics oppose such behaviour.

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