The Musings 25 by Rev. Dr. Jose Joseph Kuruvilla
Read: Mark 7: 31-37
Music is one medium that transcends the lines of division and unites people irrespective of their religion, culture, language or creed. It is through music that people find solace and comfort in life. Music is also a medium of one's creative expression. Victor Hugo, the famous poet, visual artist, literary and political celebrity once said, "Music expresses that which cannot be put into words and that which cannot remain silent". However, it is these very notes of music that is being stifled in the state of Kashmir, India. Notes of Music being stifled in the name of religious belief. A rock band named Pragaash which means from darkness to light was formed in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This was the first band that was ever formed in the state and it was three-member band. When there was a battle of bands talent quest last December, it was Pragaash that won the contest. Now the band has decided to not to perform and also disband the group. The reason for the sudden disbanding has been a statement by a senior cleric who called the members of the band and what they were doing as going against the tenets of their religion. What the senior cleric did was issuing a religious ruling also called as Fatwa to the band, ordering that they should break up and that performing rock music was against their religion. Performing rock music also meant that they were adopting western cultures and practices and these should be shunned. When Pragaash was formed they were also target of a hate campaign online and now with the religious ruling being issued by the religious leaders, the band had no other option but to disband themselves. The religious ruling of the clerics has caused a huge controversy, and topic of discussion on how clerics and the hardliners are dictating on the way people should live and should make choices with regards not only in respect to religion but also in the creative expressions of one's life. I am not fan of rock music but I believe each person his/her own taste of music. Moreover music has been an essential element in every religion. One of the music traditions especially in Kashmir is Sufi heritage and the Sufi singers are very popular all over the world. One can hear Sufi songs now in almost all Bollywood films, music, and people who love music enjoy these Sufi songs. Some of the best Sufi hits are the songs " Maula Mere Maula" from the movie Anwar and "Kwaja Mere Khwaja" from the movie Jodha Akbar. But even Sufi singers are considered as anti religious but the Sufi singers don't care about what the religious clerics say and they just sing and the people just listen and enjoy the songs, the message that they want to communicate through these Sufi songs. But in the case of Pragaash, the group consists of a young people, especially girls, and they had no other option but to obey the religious ruling otherwise their very life and existence would be at stake. The government of Kashmir has denounced the religious ruling of the cleric and have affirmed that women have every right for education, and performances related to culture, literature and other performing arts. Early in 1990's the cleric's had opposed the education of women, but the whole society isolated the clerics and they openly flouted the religious ruling by encouraging women to study. In the case of Pragaash, and realm of music lies the concept of creative expressions of a young people, people who want to explore and develop their God given talents. But the tragedy of the whole issue is that their very creative expression is being stifled in the name of God, in the name of religion. A person's individuality, identity is all related to freedom that he/she gets to creatively express himself/herself and when that creativity is stifled then his/her very existence is also stifled. Whenever we stifle another person's creative expression, I would say that we are actually denying his right to live. I live because I am able to express creatively.
Helping people to rediscover their identity through their creativity was one of the objective in the ministry of Jesus Christ. In Mark 7: 31-37, we find a crowd bringing deaf and dumb person to Jesus Christ. This incident happened in the region of Decapolis. It was in this same region that Jesus brings a socially ostracized person named Legion back to the main frame of the society [Mark 5]. In this context, we find people bringing a deaf and dumb man and requesting Jesus Christ to place his hand on him and heal him. What does this deaf and dumb man represent? A person who is not able to communicate his ideas nor one who can he listen to others, nor listen to the wonderful notes of harmony in the world, neither involve in the process of learning, because learning not only involves reading but also reflecting and listening to others. It is this lack of faculties that make this person's life monotonous and least creative. I believe it is this deficiency that Jesus understands and heals him. Jesus puts his fingers in the ears of the man. spits and uses the saliva to touch the man's tongue and looking at heaven Jesus utters "Ephphatha" which means be opened. Here is Jesus freeing the man to express himself both in terms of expressing and listening. Creativity expressed through ones expression of speech and the gift of listening. Words are always creative and when we look at Genesis we find that it is God's creative word that created this world. Words have the power to create and to destroy. But it is the creative power of the words, the creative power to express oneself that Jesus bring back to the deaf and dumb man. With Jesus healing him, the dumb man can now speak. He can now boldly speak, bring his thoughts that were bottled in his mind, through words and can now communicate freely his ideas and his thought to his world. It is in communicating ones views and ideas, communicating my creativity that I find my individuality and identity. When I am able to listen to others, listen to those wonderful sounds in this universe, my life is blessed. It is this gift of creative expressions of ones individuality that Jesus wants to brings in each one of our lives. When the religious cleric in Kashmir issued a ruling to disband the music band, I believe they were actually stifling the creative expression of God, in the lives of people. Let us therefore always affirm and encourage others so the each person is able to affirm their individuality and their identity through the creative expressions and talents that God has given to each one of us. Let us also oppose those forces and rules that stifle the a person's creative expression of speech and also be a channel whereby we make sound that are pleasing to others ears.