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What the Zaira Wasim controversy reveals about contemporary India

22 200 0
03.07.2019

On Sunday, Zaira Wasim, an 18-year-old Kashmiri Muslim Bollywood actress, caused a stir in India by announcing her decision to "disassociate" from the film industry. The actor took to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to declare that while the five years of being in the industry had brought her a "lot of love, support and applause", it had also led her to a "path of ignorance" as she had transitioned out of "imaan" (faith) and her relationship with her religion.

Her post, while vague in terms of expressing her particular experience, makes reference to a number of Quranic teachings and Islamic injunctions to reject worldly desires, and to remember the "purpose of our creation".

Wasim came to prominence after her role as a child wrestler in one of the highest grossing Indian films worldwide, Dangal. She later starred in her own film, Secret Superstar, and in the film, The Sky is Pink, which will be released in October this year. She has received a number of awards, including "Best Supporting Actress" in the 2017 National Film Awards.

However, Wasim's time in Bollywood has not been without controversy. Some Muslims disapproved of her acting on religious grounds. In her native Kashmir, however, many were less concerned with a young girl acting, as they were with her participation in an industry that is seen as being aligned with Indian national interests; Islamophobic; and misrepresentative of the Kashmiri struggle against Indian rule. Bollywood celebrities came to her defence, and Wasim was lauded as a role model of integration for Kashmiri youth, a nomenclature that Wasim herself resisted at the time.

Five years later, as Wasim has decided to leave Bollywood, the announcement has unleashed countless reactions both on social media and in Indian newsrooms. Many Muslims, especially in Kashmir, have lauded her decision to leave the industry, praising the difficult step she has taken to step away from a life of fame and wealth. In India, however, prominent figures across ideological lines have taken to social media to criticise her decision.

We may never know what........

© Al Jazeera