Everybody loves a bad fatwa

Within 24 hours of this news being flashed on NDTV this week, all major media of India have reported this over a month old fatwa.
And every new report had added information that was not even there, says KASHIF-UL-HUDA. Pix: the Deoband seminary.

Everybody loves a bad fatwa. And why not? Newspapers, for it fills the front page for its readers; Television channels, for it brings in the audience; communalists, for it plays into the image of Muslims as backwards; and activists, because it gives them a chance to reinforce their secular credentials. Never mind that this fatwa will not change the lives of millions of Muslims and may be text of the fatwa is not what it has been reported or may be the said fatwa doesn't even exist. 


A fatwa is nothing but a religious opinion from a religious scholar to a question asked by a Muslim on a particular situation that he or she may be facing or might face in future, and does not know what should be appropriate way to act in light of Islamic teachings. A mufti then issues a fatwa or opinion based on his understanding of the question and Islam. Just as different medical doctors will have difference of opinion regarding diagnosis and a treatment plan, it is common for different muftis to give different opinions on the same question. 


Media circus


At least once every year, on a slow news day, some enterprising journalist finds a fatwa that will fit the stereotype about Muslims being backward or Muslim scholars being ignorant or out of touch with the real world or both, and publish a news story based upon this 'prized' fatwa. Let's take the example of the fatwa issued by Darul Uloom Deoband that is making the round in news cycles this week. 


The fatwa in question was issued more than a month ago and one can ask, why the sudden interest by media in this particular fatwa? A fatwa that is only a sentence long has had numerous newspaper columns space and hours of airtime devoted to it. The media bosses have decided that it is an important fatwa because it has all the right keywords to keep the readers, audience, and therefore revenue coming in. 


One has to question the motive of the major media regarding this fatwa. There is more to this than meets the eye when the Indian media which is obsessed with breaking news and exclusives these days picks up a fatwa that was issued more than a month ago. Within 24 hours of this news being flashed on NDTV on Tuesday (May 11th, 2010) this week, all major media of India have reported it. And every new report had added information that was not even there.


 Let's look at the fatwa first. 


Question number 21031 (http://darulifta-deoband.org/viewfatwa.jsp?ID=21031) to Darul Ifta (house of fatwas) of Darul Uloom Deoband asked by someone in India states: "Asalamu-Alikum: Can muslim women in India do Govt. or Pvt. Jobs? Shall their salary be Halal or Haram or Prohibited?" Answer published on April 4th, 2010 simply answers it as follow: "It is unlawful for Muslim women to do job in government or private institutions where men and women work together and women have to talk with [to] men frankly and without veil." 




Now let's look at some of the headlines of news reports about this fatwa:


Fatwa against working Muslim women: NDTV


Fatwa to working Muslim women: Don't talk to male colleagues: NDTV


Women's earnings haram, says Deoband: Times of India [Print edition]


Deoband fatwa: It's illegal for women to work, support family: Times of India [Online]


Don't talk to male colleagues: Darul Uloom's fatwa to all working women: DNA


Muslim women can't work: Deoband: Samay Live


Darul Uloom says Muslim women can't work in public: India Today


Now, fatwa against working women: Indian Express


Women Working with Men Un-Islamic: Deoband: Outlook


Fatwa against men-women proximity at workplace: Zee News 


In case you ever wondered why there is no successful supermarket tabloid in India, this is your answer. There is no need for one because major media in India does that job very well.  


Kashif-ul-Huda is the editor of news website www.TwoCircles.net and can be reached at kashif@urdustan.com

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