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Regulator of fatwas on the anvil

india Updated: Sep 19, 2006 01:33 IST

Deoband angered by cash-on-cam clerics

THE ULEMAS — Muslim religious heads — on Monday decided to set up a body to monitor the issue of fatwas and other religious edicts. The decision follows a sting operation by a television channel in which three clerics were caught on camera allegedly taking bribes for declaring fatwas.

Meerut Naib Qazi Jenur Rashideen told reporters that at a late-night meeting attended by ulemas and qazis, the mosque management decided to set up a body, the Darul Ifta, to monitor the declaring of fatwas. While Rashideen will head it, prominent clerics will be its members.

A TV channel had shown a few clerics — among them, Mufti Habibur Rehman of the Islamic seminary Darul Uloom Deoband, Maulana Imran of Meerut's Shahi Jama Masjid and Ahmed Nadir Al Qasmi of the Delhi-based Islamic Fiqh Academy — allegedly agreeing to issue fatwas on a variety of activities, including the use of credit cards and camera phones by Muslims, acting in films and watching TV, in return for money.

While Habibur Rehman is suspended as the chief mufti of the seminary's fatwa department, Imran has been removed from the mosque's clergy. Rashideen constituted an 11-member committee to probe the fatwa racket while Darul Uloom Vice-Chancellor Marghoobur Rehman set up a four-member panel to investigate the matter.

"It may be a conspiracy to malign the image of this world-famous seminary," said Marghoobur. If Habibur Rehman is found guilty, he will be dismissed. Otherwise, Marghoobur said, the seminary would initiate action against the television channel.

Habibur, however, has refuted the charges levelled against him.

Senior clerics of the Deoband seminary asked the community to seek fatwas from reliable institutions to ensure their legality.

In Meerut, the peace of namaz was disturbed as the faithful refused to offer prayers under the head of Imran of the Nakkarchiyan Mosque. He apologised to the community admitting that he took money to release fatwa. He, however, said the channel people kept him in the dark and urged for a fatwa for the sake of Islam.

Rashideen told reporters that Imran had been asked to leave Nakkarchian-Gudri Bazar locality,

Meanwhile, an emergency meeting was called at the Jama Masjid of Meerut  led by Shahar Quazi Zenus Shajidin. A committee was formed to probe into the matter and Imran was terminated from his post of imam. While a few religious leaders lashed out at the TV channel for maligning the image of the community, the All India Milli Council announced "a social boycott" of those involved in the fatwa racket.