While we outrage about fake fatwas popularised by Sanghi websites, like the one against Rohit Sardana that never happened, how are our mainstream news websites any different? The most recent example is that of India Today’s Hindi news channel Aaj Tak. On 10th April 2017, Aaj Tak repeatedly posted a news on its official Facebook page. It was about a ‘recently’ issued ‘fatwa’ in Saudi Arabia stating “men can eat their wives if they are hungry.” This news was posted repeatedly with different pictures.
The reality is that it is neither ‘recent’ nor is it ‘News’. News is a piece of information which is supposed to be ‘current’ and ‘factual’. On the contrary, this is a one and a half-year-old rumour which was quashed as fake when it first came up and became viral. Ironically, India Today’s website ‘DailyO’ itself reported it to be fake back then on 29th October 2015. It was clearly reported on the DailO website that it was a fake fatwa which was going viral on social media. DailyO also stated that the ‘news’ first appeared in a sarcastic column written by a satirst Moroccan blogger called ‘Israfel al-Maghribi’.
So, why is Aaj Tak running a one and a half-year-old fake rumour as ‘current news’? Is the intent to accumulate ‘likes’ on its Facebook page by publishing click-bait articles which tap into a certain anti-Muslim sentiment that pervades in their potential audience? Is Aaj Tak is trying to outrun the various teensy Whatsapp groups spreading communal hatred? This business of hatred in the name of journalism is not new, but the low it has reached in recent times, is not to be found in history.