Indian actress draws fire for quitting over Islamic faith

FILE PHOTO: Actor Zaira Wasim arrives for a promotional event at Golf Club in Mumbai

By Shilpa Jamkhandikar

(Reuters) - A Muslim actress' decision to quit Bollywood, saying acting was taking her away from her faith, has triggered a backlash in India from fellow actors and fans.

Zaira Wasim, 18, best known for her role as a wrestler in the 2016 film Dangal, announced her "disassociation" from acting on Sunday.

"This field indeed brought a lot of love, support and applause my way, but what it also did was to lead me to a path of ignorance, as I silently and unconsciously transitioned out of 'imaan'," she said, referring to her faith.

"While I continued to work in an environment that consistently interfered with my 'imaan', my relationship with my religion was threatened," she said in simultaneous posts on her social media profiles.

On Instagram alone, her post drew more than 27,000 comments.

Wasim's manager confirmed the announcement.

"Her posts are genuine and written in the state of mind she is currently in. Let's give her time and space," said Tuhin Mishra, managing director of Baseline Ventures.

Reuters' calls and messages to Wasim were not answered.

Wasim's last film was the 2017 drama "Secret Superstar", in which she played a Muslim teenager who sings surreptitiously because her abusive father will not allow it.

She won several awards for the film.

Actress Raveena Tandon accused Wasim of being ungrateful to an industry that gave her opportunities.

"Just wish they'd exit gracefully and keep their regressive views to themselves," Tandon said on Twitter.

Twitter user Ifra Jan said Wasim's decision would make it harder for other Muslim women to pursue an acting career.

"Please don't leave spitting at an industry, audience that gave you SO much," Jan said.

"PS, you could have left quietly. With this letter you've made it difficult for every Muslim woman to choose an unconventional career. As if our society wasn't enough!"

Public figures in Wasim's native Jammu and Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority state, came to her defense.

"Who are any of us to question @ZairaWasimmm's choices?," former chief minister Omar Abdullah said in a tweet.

It's her life to do with as she pleases. All I will do is wish her well & hope that what ever she does makes her happy," he said.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Darren Schuettler)