UPDATED: Saudi Cleric Okays Gang Rape of Syrian Women

Update: Alternet has retracted this story, as it turned out to be a hoax.

Alternet reports that an influential Saudi imam who is closely tied to jihadist groups worldwide has issued an edict endorsing temporary “intercourse marriages” to allow opposition fighters in Syria to each have their turn having sex with any Syrian woman over 14 who is widowed or divorced.

A prominent Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa (a religious ordinance) that calls for the gang rape of Syrian women. Expressing frustration that the “warriors of Islam” fighting in Syria may be getting weary for the lack of sexual pleasure, the religious leader issued a decree that promotes hours-long “intercourse marriages.”

The cleric, Muhammed al-Arifi, who is a leading jihadist religious figure, made it clear that his edict called for the gang rape of Syrian women and girls. He specified that the “intercourse marriages” last only a few hours “in order to give each fighter a turn.” As to who is an eligible bride, the cleric approves any girls or women over the age of 14 who are widowed or divorced. Yes, you read that right. Any girls over the age of 14.

I hope this translation is accurate. Here’s a video of a report on the fatwa. If anyone speaks Arabic and can verify this, please do:

14 comments on this post.
  1. Andrew G.:

    The problem with queueing these stories up in advance is that you run the risk of posting a story after it has already been debunked. (Alternet posted the story on Jan 2 and retracted it within the day.)

  2. Thorne:

    I thought this had been debunked.

  3. davidct:

    It says something that hoaxes can often seem believable. One downside of a record of outrageous behavior is that anything can be that much more believable. Much of the distrust of Islam has been earned.

  4. eric:

    From Andrew G’s link:

    Not surprisingly, there was immediate online uproar, too, though as one commentator put it, much of the discussion was about whether these arranged temporary marriages technically constituted rape. This in itself is worrying.

    The mind reels.

    Unrelated question: did the hoax consist of just a fraudulent translation, or was this an actor & script “whole cloth” hoax? I’m asking because I can see a reasonable case for a moderately-sized news service being fooled by the latter. But there is no excuse for any major news service to be fooled by the former.

  5. dingojack:

    davidct – could it be because we tend to believe these kind of hoaxes, that such hoaxes are believed?*
    Poeing is one thing, malice is quite another.
    Dingo
    ——–
    * I believe it is called ‘confirmation bias’

  6. democommie:

    Well, aside from the fact that it appears to be complete bullshit, it would be an excellent way for the Saudis to unite their Syrian brethren in a jihad against the jihadis.

    “Much of the distrust of Islam has been earned.”

    As has the distrust of ALL major religions and political systems. Government and Religion–it’s PEOPLE!!

  7. Raging Bee:

    One of the more disgraceful aspects of this sort of hoax is expressed in this paragraph of the retraction:

    The issue of sexual violence against women is serious and seriously under-reported everywhere, including in Syria today. There are countless stories to report on that topic that are horrific and true. Yet time and again the news media opts to bypass the real cases, question the validity of sources or claim that these “rape” stories are too graphic and sensational, while hopping on the band wagon of false stories that could themselves lead to more rape.

    And here’s something to consider about the sources of the story:

    The Clarion Fund is so extreme in its Islamophobia it’s almost satirical. Anything it posts must be taken with a pinch of salt and more. Press TV is the English language satellite station of the Iranian regime. Given that the Syrian conflict is turning into a de facto proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, it should come as no surprise that either side would opt for any smear tactics and propaganda for its own ends.

    Forget Michelle Bachman — when it comes to spreading hate against Muslims, “news” outlets like this are the real danger.

  8. Marcus Ranum:

    The story is bullshit but is based on some truth. Apparently in Saudi Arabia there are places where you can go, if you have the money, and get married to a pretty girl of your choice, consummate your marriage and then get divorced – all in the time it takes to get your rocks off. It’s not prostitution, of course, it’s a traditional marriage.

  9. zoebrain:

    Debunked.

    But the grain of truth the malicious hoax is based on – http://www.payvand.com/news/12/jun/1029.html

  10. Andrew G.:

    Marcus Ranum @8 – “temporary marriage” is a specifically Shia practice, not accepted (or even considered legal) by Sunnis. Shia are a minority (~20% or less) in Saudi Arabia and Syria; Iran is the most notable Shi’ite country.

  11. dingojack:

    “The Clarion Fund is so extreme in its Islamophobia it’s almost satirical. Anything it posts must be taken with a pinch of salt and more. Press TV is the English language satellite station of the Iranian regime…”.
    As I said, malice is quite another thing.
    “… Given that the Syrian conflict is turning into a de facto proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran”,
    Really? Citations would be appreciated.
    Thanks
    Dingo

  12. Ed Brayton:

    Ah, thanks everyone for pointing out the retraction. As the first commenter said, that is one of the dangers of writing posts ahead of time. And I hadn’t seen the retraction. But as the last sentence indicated, I had some skepticism about it and hoped someone could translate the Arabic and tell me whether it was true or not. I’m actually relieved to find out it’s false.

  13. Nick Gotts (formerly KG):

    But the grain of truth the malicious hoax is based on – zoebrain

    No, that’s not “the grain of truth the malicious hoax is based on”, and by saying it is, all you demonstrate is your ignorance. The hoax is aimed as a Wahhabi “scholar”, and the Wahhabis are Sunni extremists – loathing and loathed by the Shia extremists who rule Iran. The two support and arm opposite sides in the Syrian civil war, and this hoax was picked up – though AFAIK not originated – by the Iranian government TV channel PressTV. The earliest source I can find is the privately-owned Lebanese TV channel Al Jadeed, which apparently has in the past supported Assad’s regime, although there have been frictions recently.

    “… Given that the Syrian conflict is turning into a de facto proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran”,
    Really? Citations would be appreciated. – dingojack

    Really? It’s hardly a secret that Shia Iran is allied with the Alawite* Syrian regime, or that Saudi Arabia is channeling arms to the largely Sunni Syrian rebels. I can’t be bothered finding citations at present, but they won’t be difficult to find if you care to look.

    Whoever originated it, it was a highly successful hoax, picked up and repeated without any attempt at checking whether it was true by the Iranian theocrats, the far-right evangelical Christians at the Clarion Fund, and liberal outlets such as Alternet and FtB bloggers (Taslima Nasrin still hasn’t acknowledged that it’s a hoax, although PZ has). If only for prudential reasons, a little more caution in attributing disgusting behaviour to named individuals on the basis of unchecked reports would be wise, especially when a little political savvy would have warned people that a hoax was a likely possibility. The fact that no source indicated the place, time or format of the alleged fatwa should also have been a warning sign.

    Just in case anyone’s wondering, I’m not operating from hindsight here: I drew attention to the possibility the story was a hoax on the threads PZ and Taslima ran on the story, before Alternet retracted it.

    *Alawites are a subgroup of Shia Muslims.

  14. dingojack:

    Nick – Thanks for that. (I hasn’t really been paying attention to the geopolitical dimensions of the conflict).
    Dingo

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