Monday, October 4, 2010

Losing Credibility For Prejudice

Some of the issues play spoiler for the internationally accepted media norms and ethics. Come they and media, both electronic and print, news become a reflection of the views its controllers and owners hold. Neutrality in the news item goes anywhere else untraced making it an opinion article that seems to wrongly have found place in a news column instead of the editorial page.

Such a news item appeared recently in the daily Times of India. The write up that deservedly should be in the opinion page was misplaced among national news items.
It deals with news related to some Lucknow Muslim women who did not accept that their “talaq” had taken place even though some religious scholars had issued “talaqnama”. A BBC Urdu report attributed to the women Nishat Fatema and Arshi Bibi that the talaqnama was issued without their “consent” as their husband had bribed the maulvis Rs 2,500 for issuing that talaqnama. Three angry women had roughed the maulvis over this in June. And now in practical defiance to the “talaqnama” two of them, supported by around a hundred others, entered forcefully their martial hose, the residence of Abdees, says a recently TOI report.

The report titled “Divorced women jolt maulvis: After beating the clergymen, they re-enter in-laws’ home” is all praise for the “outspokenness” of the women while at the same time it uses undue words and pattern to refer to the religious scholars and institutions.

Though the news is solely about Lucknow and the “talaqnama” issued by maulvis is never a “fatwa” the report unnecessarily but mischievously has dragged Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband and its fatwas into it. “This year has seen at least a dozen anti-women fatwas from Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband,” reads an irrelevant sentence of the news.
The news does not have any clear mention that the “women” were protesting against a move by a shariat court in Lucknow while at the same time listing many fatwas issued by Dar-ul-Uloom. It leaves strong suspicion in the mind of readers that this “talaqnama” too was issued by the seminary Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband.

Nevertheless, while going on to enlist “some recent fatwas” the report mentioned some fatwas which were issued months back. Surprisingly, the reporter of such a leading newspaper has also failed to understand that fatwas are no “inventions” or “self-coined” by maulvis that Dar-ul-Uloom or any mullah can be held responsible for that.

In the report, one Shahnaz Begum has been quoted as saying, “Maulvis are scared they may lose their importance once women begin to exercise their brains. And each issue, from condoning triple talaq to pronouncing anti-woman fatwa, only shows their insecurity.” This quotation is the result of wrong notion in the minds of Begum and the reporter as well, that fatwas are fabricated by maulvis to ensure that patriarchal control remains.

In an attempt to show that Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband has been in a business of issuing “anti-women” fatwas “continuously” the report has in a box “some recent fatwas” issued during a period of “April 2010-2011 to “August 2010”. Unfortunately, many of the fatwas were never issued during the period the report mentioned; it tells how carelessly the report has been prepared without considering authenticity. Just take an example. The fatwa regarding Muslim women working in offices was uploaded on Dar-ul-Ifta of Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband website in the first week of April (it might have issued even earlier) and the report says that it was “issued” in May 2010.

Many other fatwas would have been mentions as “some recent fatwas by Dar-ul-Uloom Deoband” which were really “recent” but only those “old” and “recent” fatwas were selected to find a place in the TOI report box that seems anti-women if taken out of their context.

The report is not only an example of becoming news influenced by a particle state of mind but also it questions the authenticity of the materials published in leading newspapers. It will be dangerous if people lose trust in the media.

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