Friday, September 30, 2011

India's Cash-for-Fatwa Scandal

The following is from 2006, still being circulated. Since then, the Organization of Islamic countries has issued a fatwa that no fatwa be issued without discussion. Who is going to listen to them? We cannot even agree to one Eid celebration even in smaller cities.

There was a talk among a few Muslims to open a Fatwa Factory - whose sole purpose was to issue counter fatwas against meaningless fatwas. They wanted to issue so many of them that its significance was lost and lead Muslims to create an organization who will authenticate a fatwa on their site, if not, it will be as though some one on the street is yelling. The integrity of Muslims must be called in here to have people of different traditions and those who have the guts to speak out against before it is agreed upon. Without critic and without opposition it will be meaningless.

It may be a good idea for Shura council in the United States to assign an individual the responsibility to issue a counter fatwa against foreign fatwas that are flaunted on national televisions and radio shows.

Mike Ghouse
India's Cash-for-Fatwa Scandal

Last week, many Muslims in India, like their counterparts around the world, gathered on the streets to burn effigies of the Pope and shout slogans denouncing him for his remarks on Islam and violence. Even before that fully died out, however, a new controversy erupted — one that has turned Muslim ire against some of their own local clerics.

India's "cash-for-fatwas" scandal broke out last weekend when a TV channel broadcast a sting operation that showed several Indian Muslim clerics allegedly taking, or demanding, bribes in return for issuing fatwas, or religious edicts. The bribes, some of which were as low as $60, were offered by undercover reporters wearing hidden cameras over a period of six weeks. In return for the cash, the clerics appear to hand out fatwas written in Urdu, the language used by many Muslims in Pakistan and India, on subjects requested by the reporters. Among the decrees issued by the fatwas: that Muslims are not allowed to use credit cards, double beds, or camera-equipped cell phones, and should not act in films, donate their organs, or teach their children English. One cleric issued a fatwa against watching TV; another issued a fatwa in support of watching TV.

Adding to the shock in India, home to the world's third-largest Muslim population (approximately 150 million), is that some of the clerics apparently caught in the sting operation teach at important institutions — one belongs to India's most famous Islamic seminary, the Darul Uloom at Deoband. At least two of the clerics have been suspended from their posts, but that hasn't satisfied everyone. Students at one madrassa in north India denounced the clerics, and in the city of Meerut, where a mufti, or cleric, had been caught on camera, the congregation at one mosque refused to offer prayers until he came before them, admitted to taking the money, and apologized.

The "cash-for-fatwas" scandal has also led to a renewed debate on what constitutes a fatwa, and who has legitimate authority to issue one. Fatwas — like the one passed by Iran's Ayatullah Khomeini in 1989 against the novelist Salman Rushdie, or those issued by Osama bin Laden in 1996 and 1998 against America — have come to epitomize the intolerance of Islamic fundamentalists. Yet many Muslims argue that the purpose of fatwas has been misunderstood: A fatwa is, technically speaking, a ruling on a point of Islamic law made by a recognized Muslim scholar in response to a question put to him. Since Osama bin Laden is no Islamic scholar, many deny his right to issue a fatwa. The sway that fatwas hold over Muslims is also not as great as many outsiders think.

Last year, a Muslim cleric issued a fatwa stating that it was un-Islamic for Sania Mirza, India's most famous tennis player and a Muslim, to wear sleeveless tops or short skirts on court. Mirza simply dismissed the ruling; indeed, many, if not most, urban Indian Muslims do not take fatwas seriously. However, in rural communities, a well-respected mufti's fatwa — on issues ranging from marriage to health to women's rights — can carry considerable influence. India's Muslim leaders announced that they will soon create a new body that will monitor the passing of fatwas in the country, in a bid to preserve that influence, and nip the popular anger swirling around this scandal.

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.