Sonu Nigam shaves head, asks cleric to pay Rs 10 lakh

MUMBAI/KOLKATA: It’s not unusual for community leaders to stoke a controversy for attention, but singer Sonu Nigam seems to have stolen a march over a cleric who announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for anyone who would shave the singer’s head, put a garland of old tattered shoes around his neck and tour him around the country for his comments on azaan.
He got his head tonsured on Wednesday saying he was doing so to lay bare the “fanaticism” which was at the heart of the extreme response from Syed Sha Atef Ali Al Quaderi, vice-president of the West Bengal Minority United Council, to his statements. “Today at 2pm Aalim will come to my place, and shave my head. Keep your 10 lakh ready, maulavi,” Nigam tweeted, and kept his word.
Nigam had sparked a debate on Tuesday with four tweets about his annoyance at being woken up by azaan (call to prayer) and termed the use of loudspeakers as “forced religiousness” and “gundagardi”.
Nigam addressed the media on the patio of Namah, his Versova bungalow, with celebrity hairstylist Aalim Hakim by his side, before taking the hair clipper to his scalp. “I never thought that someone like me who reveres Mohammad Rafi as his father, considers Ghulam Mustafa Khan and Mohammad Tahir his guru, whose trainer and driver are Muslims, has friends who read their namaz in his house, will be tainted as anti-Muslim,” he said.
Reiterating his stance, Nigam said, “I’ve spoken about the nuisance caused by loudspeakers in the past and I stick to my stand. Loudspeakers are not a religious necessity. I have the same thing to say about temples and gurudwaras. There are Hindu festivals when people blast film music on the streets and make a lot of noise. Isn’t that dadagiri too? I’m talking about a social issue. Not a religious one.”
Straightening out speculation about his political attachments, he said, “I’m neither left-wing nor right-wing. I’m in the middle, which makes me a minority.”

The 43-year-old said his decision to sport a skinhead in response to the maulvi’s declaration was about conveying a serious message. “See, this is the gundagardi that I was talking about. But I’m not trying to stage an agitation or challenge the maulvi. It’s about baring and fighting fanaticism peacefully,” he insisted before withdrawing indoors only to reappear with his head full of hair gone. In what looked like a spiffy buzz cut in the hands of Aalim, known for giving Bollywood their inventive hairdos, Nigam pointed out, “The one cutting my hair is a Muslim but he is doing it with love, not hate.”

 The cleric met reporters at his CIT Road house in Kolkata soon after the singer shaved his head. “I’m not going to pay Rs 10 lakh because Sonu Nigam has failed to fulfil all the conditions I laid down. I’m glad that he shaved his head although it looks like he only trimmed it. The other two conditions – that he should wear a garland of tattered shoes and visit every Indian household – is still incomplete. So, he does not qualify for the amount I promised.”

Quaderi added that he did not issue a fatwa. “It was an announcement against Nigam’s provocative statement,” he said. But why announce it on a public forum, instead of going to court? “Sonu Nigam did not go to the court. He used a social networking site to get his views across and so did I.”


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