Dar ul-Uloom Deoband takes on power theft

April 2, 2008

The AP government is trying to spread awareness of a fatwa from Deoband condemning power theft. Of course, it’s completely consistent with:

  1. What would be expected to be the ruling for any types of theft anywhere in the Muslim world. (The realities of corruption aside.) (example)
  2. Dar al-Uloom Deoband’s historical positions regarding Muslim life in India.

Nonetheless, it might be seen to contrast with the fact that Deobandis (especially from South Africa) have usually been at the forefront (at least amongst those who bother with fiqhi justification) in justifying financial crimes by Muslims in non-Muslim countries. (See this book for an example, though I can not recall which side it comes down on, I’m certain it discusses the issue.)

This comes down to different streams within worldwide Deobandi thought, and this position is, as I said, consistent with that of the Deobandi establishment in India. There’s not as much of a clear, organized non-establishment Deobandi ulama group in India (as compared to, say, Pakistan). Still, Deobandis – and Tablighis especially – are the most prominent practitioners of economic crimes who imagine them to be religiously justified. (Smuggling, counterfeiting, tariff and tax avoidance, visa fraud, and the like.) I’m not sure where they turn to for their religious sanction, as Tablighis are usually scrupulous about that sort of thing. But I’ve definitely heard it from their mouths.

Again, let me reiterate that the majority of Muslims worldwide who commit these sorts of crimes (and even those who engage in political violence of whatever sort) don’t actually consider what they are doing to be religiously sanctioned. They consider it wrong, they know it is theft, and they know they are sinning. Sometimes they say “it’s not so bad.” Or they might think of it as the equivalent of a “victimless crime.” Most of them will be aware of just how bad it is, but consider their hands forced by circumstance. Many will be ashamed and repentant. Those who aren’t are usually doing much worse things than stealing power. In other words people are the same wherever you are.

The article states that the authorities approached a Hyderabadi religious organization for a fatwa and they refused saying they did not want to get involved in “political” matters. Most likely they mean Jamia Nizamia, but they may have meant one of the Deobandi schools, given where they later turned. Presumably, the problem was one of being local. Since the biggest power thieves are the politically powerful and their criminal associates, the organizations approached may have feared to be dragged in to a specific campaign against people who could make life very difficult for them as an organization and as individuals. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were prepared to issue a ruling, but rightly feared that the power authorities would try to force them into being one face of an ongoing and public effort. In addition to the physical danger it might entail, such association also always carries the risk of being discredited as “government muftis.” There’s no such risk for the muftis of Deoband to support the AP state electrical board – and probably not even to do so in their own area, considering the different power dynamic.

We personally got caught in the crossfire with a politically connected landlord who had probably never paid an electric bill, and the power board who were determined to collect from someone and used guerrilla tactics to perform the crucial meter reading while we were living there. It got very scary – and there was not just a financial risk, there were definitely implied threats of violence from one side and imprisonment from the other. It was just very ugly, and one of those things that I frequently wish everyone who chooses to comment on corruption and criminality in various societies – and the duty of the individual to reform the world – would understand.

The article adds:

The troublesome areas include the whole of Charminar division, Bhavani Nagar, Santoshnagar, Yakutpura, Talabkatta, Sitarambagh, Karwan, Mangalhat, Dattatreya Nagar, Madannapet, Chanchalguda, Chaderghat, Dabeerpura, Miralam, Attapur, Chadulal Baradari, Falaknuma, Chadrayanagutta, Barkas and Chatrinaka, an official said.

Yeah, no kidding.

The Hindu : Read

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