x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Airing outlandish fatwas shows networks want a fast buck

The volume of disproportionate fatwas on satellite channels is an embarrassment to self-respecting Muslims, a Qatari scholar says. Other opinion articles in the Arabic-language concern Iran's threats of war with Israel, and Mohammed Morsi's UN visit.

By airing outlandish fatwas, Arabic networks prove they are ready to stoop low for quick buck

The volume of unnecessary and disproportionate fatwas being churned out via Arabic satellite channels is becoming an embarrassment to self-respecting Muslims and an insult to their intelligence, wrote Dr Ahmad Abdul Malik, a Qatari scholar and media expert, in yesterday's edition of the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper Al Ittihad.

You might remember the fatwa on breastfeeding, in which a mufti advised a woman to breastfeed her colleague in order to make their sharing of the same office religiously permissible. Breastfeeding in Islam establishes kinship.

"Such weird and anachronistic fatwas … eventually become material for jokes on social networking websites," the writer said.

But that is not always the case. Other fatwas, which are equally excessive, if not more, are taken seriously by individuals who cannot claim to be tolerant.

Last month in Egypt, one fatwa rendered permissible the killing of Egyptian protesters if they were to press ahead with plans to hold a political rally that was deemed "seditious".

A similar fatwa targeted Nobel Prize laureate Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and outspoken figure against the Mubarak regime during the early days of the Arab Spring.

Why would a man of his stature be "either killed or put in prison", as the fatwa has it? Because Dr ElBaradei called for protests against government policy, an act that is increasingly perceived by some clerics as "sinful and transgressive" - particularly since the ascent of the Muslim Brotherhood to power.

"Things have really changed. Having shrugged off years of pressure, some people [in the Arab world] can no longer control what they are saying," the writer noted.

"In the meantime, the satellite channels are competing to get the next controversial fatwa on the air in order to attract advertising, trampling in the process all the media ethics that govern publication and broadcasting."

Issuing fatwas has become "a free for all", he added, which has "deeply undermined the wholesomeness of this grave responsibility, instigated enmities between fellow citizens and generally made Muslims confused".

As any sensible person knows, fatwas must be exclusively issued by competent authorities that have sunk their teeth in Sharia, Islamic history and jurisprudence. Otherwise it would be so easy to turn the world into "a chaos of fatwas", the writer went on.

Media outlets have a responsibility to restrict access to two-pence muftis. But, unfortunately, not so many of them do. Sometimes a fatwa would even target a Muslim community.

"Dozens of Arabic satellite channels readily air fatwas and pictures inciting one Islamic doctrine against another," the writer said.

Iran warns against a possible world war

Iranian threats to Israel and the US have become a daily routine, said the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial on Monday.

On Sunday, brigadier general Amir Ali Hajizadeh from the Revolutionary Guard Corps said it is possible that Iran would launch a pre-emptive attack if it became certain that the enemy is preparing to attack it.

He went on to say that Iran's retaliation for any aggression would mark the beginning of the end for Israel. He confirmed that the armed conflict would be widespread and comprehensive and would escalate into a third world war.

"Such escalatory Iranian rhetoric comes as a reaction to similar Israeli threats, mainly through prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who repeatedly announced that Washington's failure to define limitations for Iran would eventually push his government to make the decision of war," said the daily.

Mutual Iranian and Israeli threats could eventually turn out to be nothing but means of psychological warfare, the writer said.

However, the indications of an imminent war are visible on various fronts, especially in the Strait of Hormuz where a series of joint US-Gulf States maritime manoeuvres revolving around cleaning up any mines and confronting any attempts to block the strait have begun in recent days.

Morsi looks to prove credentials on US visit

In a 90-minute interview with the New York Times prior to his first visit to the US, Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi observed that Washington is required to change its ways with the Arab world and show more respect for its values if it wishes to put an end to anti-American rage that has been building up for decades in the region.

In a comment article for the Qatari newspaper Al Watan, columnist Mazen Hammad said: "It felt as if President Morsi was engaging the US administration to reform its relationship with the Arab world and revive its alliance with Egypt."

President Morsi even stressed that Washington must make good on its promises to achieve Palestinian autonomy if it wants Cairo to honour its agreements with Israel.

"The Egyptian president arrives in the US at a delicate time as he is facing internal pressure to prove his independence in his decision-making role and as the West is demanding guarantees that Egypt under Muslim Brotherhood rule would remain a steady partner of the US," added the writer.

Mr Morsi couldn't offer such guarantees. He made this point clear when he said the US shouldn't expect that Egypt would unquestionably comply with it requests.

* Digest compiled by Translation Desk