The making of a hoax: how a story about a law allowing Egyptian men to have sex with their dead wives went from rumor to front page of the Daily Mail, the Huffington Post and Al-Arabiya.
CAIRO - "Islamists' and "Necrophilia." Put those two words together in a headline and your story is sure to go viral.
That must be what the Daily Mail and The Huffington Post, among others, were thinking when they published a recent articles on a supposed parliamentary bill in Egypt allowing necrophilia and child marriage. On the Huffington Post, the headline read, "Farewell intercourse law: Egyptian Parliament reportedly drafts measure to allow husbands to have sex with dead wives."
The story was about Egypt's Islamists pushing for a law allowing a man to have sex with his deceased wife up to six hours after her death. You can imagine the comments; the story was shared thousands of times through Twitter, Facebook and blogs.
Only problem, of course, is that the story was bogus.
The story started two weeks ago after columnist Amr Abdel Sami wrote a column in the Egyptian state-owned newspaper, Al-Ahram. In the article, he warned of the Islamization of Egyptian society, and worried about the Salafi success in the parliamentary elections. He gave some examples of what Islamization might lead to. Among several things, he quoted controversial Moroccan Sheikh Zamzami Abdul Bari saying that it would be halal for a man to have intercourse with his wife after death. It should be noted that Zamzami is infamous for his bizarre fatwas, including having earlier embraced consumption of alcohol for pregnant women.
Abdel Sami wrote that he was afraid this kind of thinking could spread to Egypt. The day after, ONTV host Jaber al-Qarmouty discussed the column in his show. After reading the passage concerning necrophilia aloud several times, he asked whether such a bill could be introduced in the Islamist-controlled Egyptian Parliament, wondering if Abdel Sami's "sources' had tipped him off to this.
From rumor to viral
The next day, Saudi-owned news channel Al-Arabiya brought up the matter on their English website. By now, all the little fallacies had been synthesized and the headline read: "Egyptian women urged parliamentarians to reject the draft laws that allow child marriage and sex after death."
What is puzzling about the spread of this hoax is that it could not have been that difficult for journalists to fact check it. When we contacted Ziad Bahaa Eddin, Member of Parliament for the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, he replied within an hour, stating that no such "ludicrous' bill had ever been discussed or brought up in Parliament.
The Huffington Post, while acknowledging widespread doubts about the validity of the story, has nonetheless left the post on the site. Hard to resist the clicks that even a baldly false story can produce. But it is also hard to avoid the reality that the story was written by and for Westerners eager to reinforce Islamophobia.
Read the full article in Al-Masry Al-Youm
Photo - Huffington Post screenshot
*This a digest item, not a direct translation