SRINAGAR, India (AFP) - Indian Kashmir's most senior Muslim cleric has called for the plug to be pulled on an all-girl rock group, calling the band "un-Islamic" and accusing them of "indecent" behaviour.
Pragaash (First Light) sprang to prominence last December when the high school trio, all of whom are Muslim, won an annual "Battle of Bands" competition held in Srinagar, the state capital.
But the three-piece, whose members are all aged around 16, has since been the target of a cultural backlash in the Muslim majority state, including hate mail on their Facebook page, and have held back from playing any more concerts.
While artists, numerous others and even the state's chief minister have sprung to their defence, the Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Bashiruddin Ahmad, has now weighed into the debate by calling for them to quit.
"When girls and young women stray from the rightful path and indulge in shameless and indecent behaviour... this kind of non-serious activity (music) can become the first step towards our destruction," he said in a statement on Sunday.
"Some girls who believe this mirage to be a real spring are set on a destructive path. They should stop in their tracks."
Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, however, promised full security for the band members and urged them to continue singing.
"Jammu and Kashmir always had a musical history. The girls can continue their musical career. The state will provide security," Mr Abdullah said in an interview with CNN-IBN news channel.
Kashmir is India's only Muslim-majority state and hardline Islamists have a reputation for trying to impose Islamic law, forcing the closure of cinemas and liquor stores with the onset of an anti-India insurgency in 1990.
Kashmiri women, who often do not wear full veils, have in the past been targeted by campaigns to enforce Islamic dress codes.