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Sunday, January 24, 2016

Kashmir woman Murcyleen Peerzada quits IRF

In 2012 she assisted direction of 'Ek Tha Tiger'; In 2013, she joined Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

JAMMU, Jan 22: Murcyleen Peerzada, 24, a Mumbai-based Kashmiri woman, who hogged headlines last year for her dramatic flight from the glamorous Bollywood to Zakir Naik's religion preaching organisation, on Friday announced to have quit Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).

“My association with Dr Zakir Naik's IRF has come to end today and from now I have no longer any association with the ladies wing of IRF. The decision of quitting my association with the organization is a personal one,” Peerzada said in an email to Srinagar-based news gathering agency Kashmir News Service.

“When I came to studying Islam, I didn't know anyone from the field of Dawah, and I was eager to learn it. For this I have joined one of the only Islamic organizations that I knew existed for women that time which was run by Mrs. Zakir Naik", Peerzada said while asserting that her path and that of the IRF did not match anymore.

“That was then and this is now, I part ways with IRF & can't accommodate it anymore. I'm grateful for most of the beneficial knowledge they gave me. However, our paths don't match anymore. I love positivity & creativity. I agree that the parting could be silent, however, since "YRF (Yash Raj Films) to IRF" was a page from my life that was appreciated, I thought it's best to put this development out there. I don't know where Allah will take me next but it's going to be some place amazing and positive I'm sure", she added.

“I will be not leaving Dawah work, just leaving an organization. Dawah work should be positive and peaceful, I strongly believe that. I am attracted to positivity & really want to do more fun & lighter things. I have a long way to go,” she is reported to have said.

Efforts to reach Peerzada and her Mumbai-based businessmen father Feroze Peerzada on telephone did not succeed.

Hailing from a village on the outskirts of the famous apple town of Sopore in northern Kashmir, the Peerzada family enjoyed proximity to the Bollywood bigwig Yash Chopra---a frequent Kashmir visitor who died days after shooting his last film in the Valley, in 2012. Chopra’s YRF had shot some of Bollywood's top box office hits on the picturesque Valley locales.

Then 21, Peerzada made her debut as assistant director of the YRF magnum opus 'Ek Tha Tiger', directed by Kabir Khan and produced by Chopra’s son Aditya Chopra and Sohail Sen. This Indian action spy film had Salman Khan and Katrina Kaif in stellar roles, besides Roshan Seth, Ranvir Shorey and Girish Karnad who played the RAW chief.

In 2013, she was signed up for YRF’s ‘Shuddh Desi Romance’ as a costume assistant director. But since the director Maneesh Sharma liked to take up newcomers for his movies, he asked her to do a screen test. “When I faced the camera, I suddenly felt exposed, emotionally and physically, even though I was wearing a salwar kameez. I felt vulnerable and uncomfortable. I just got up, and said, ‘I don’t want to do this", she told The Indian Express in an interview in August 2014.

Peerzada revealed that Yash Chopra’s death, coupled with Maneesh Sharma’s screen test, transformed her persona. Recluse at her home, she stumbled upon the transcript of one of Zakir Naik's speeches. It changed her life completely. She abandoned her Westernised, flamboyant lifestyle. From a “crazy shopaholic” who would lap up the “most expensive dresses and jeans”, she wore an all-black burqa.

While pursuing a Masters in Islamic Studies with an online university in Qatar, she picked up a thick collection of Hijabs in Dubai and joined Dr Naik's wife Farha as a female Islamic preacher and activist. In the next few months, she began organising female gatherings in Srinagar and preached Naik's puritanical ideology of Islam that runs contrary to the Sufi tradition popular in Kashmir since 14th century A.D.

In 2014, Peerzada organised an Ijtima in Srinagar, close to the venue of a musical concert. Next day she posted on Instagram: "Yesterday there was a musical concert in Kashmir15 minutes away from our conference which was attended by Bollywood actors Sohail Khan and Suniel Shetty. For Kashmir, that’s something rare. We were asked to move our conference so that we may be able to pull a crowd. But look at Allah’s greatness, we gathered a crowd of 4,000 people and the concert a crowd of 200.”

Nouman Ali Khan and Yasmin Mogahed became her role models.

Her tweets are usually re-tweets of Islamic scholars, and most are spiritual, asking people to turn to Allah to solve problems in their lives. “I don’t believe in teaching extremism. I have a very liberal approach towards religion. Angry speeches are not going to eventually appeal to the young, only love and wisdom can. Islam is a religion in controversy, and it needs youngsters like us to reach out to young Muslims in a humourous, light manner. American preacher Nouman Ali Khan cracks jokes in between his talks. That’s how it should be,” she said in an interview. She had a huge following on Instagram.

“They (the media) reduce women to objects that satisfy men and cause only a negative impact in people’s life including social networking sites. All the girls should learn to value themselves and their bodies. Cover up for the sake of Allah! Your body and also your character… My friends aren’t the girls who display themselves to the world, my friends are the girls who say they believe in Allah and prove it every day. They’re the kinds that will Insha Allah reunite with me in jannah. Their goal isn’t ‘boys, parties and fashion’. Their goal is jannah", she once posted.

Peerzada now suggests her "positivity and creativity" is in conflict with Dr Naik's teachings but in her cautiously drafted email she steers clear of being critical to the cleric whose radical preaching provides an inspiration to a huge chunk of the Muslim population in India including Jammu and Kashmir.


[Published in today's STATE TIMES]

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