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India: Bollywood filmmakers apologise to Shia Muslims over 'offensive' song, scene

The filmmakers behind the upcoming Hindi-language action sequel, Khuda Haafiz: Chapter II – Agni Pariksha, have issued an apology to the Shia Muslim community over objectionable content in the film which they found offensive.

The film, scheduled for release on 8 July is the second instalment to the 2020 film Khuda Haafiz and stars Vidyut Jammwal and Shivaleeka Oberoi. It is written and directed by Faruk Kabir.

However, the film has been marred by controversy even before its release, after a police complaint was lodged against Kabir in the city of Hyderabad and calls on social media for the director to remove the offensive material.

According to the complainants, a scene in the film featuring a song called "Haq Hussain" depicts the Shia community taking part in a Muharram procession, mourning the martyrdom of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), Hussain Ibn Ali who is the third Imam for Shia Muslims.

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The offensive scene showed self-flagellating Shia Muslims as a sign of mourning over the tragedy of Karbala, a practice known as tatbir, and in the Indian subcontinent as zanjeer, where blades are used in the blood-letting process. There is a difference of opinion among Shia scholars as to its permissibility. While not uncommon in India, the objections were raised after it depicted the community in a negative light by using the blades against others.

A statement released yesterday on social media by Panorama Studios said it recognised "the concerns expressed by the Shia Sect of the (Muslim) community and sincerely apologize for the fact that elements of the song 'Haq Hussain' have unintentionally hurt their sentiments. Objections were raised by people of the community for the word 'Hussain' and the use of the matam zanjeer."

The statement added: "We have unilaterally decided to make changes to the song. In consultation with the CBFC Censor Board, we have removed zanjeer blades from the song and we've changed the lyrics of the song 'Haq Hussain' to 'Junoon Hai'. Please know that no Shia community member has been captured in the wrong light in the film nor does the film show any person of the Shia community attacking anyone. The song was created with the utmost pious intent to celebrate the glory of Imam Hussain in his battle against the oppressors. The intention was never to hurt religious sentiments."

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