if ali abunimah thinks this implies the zionist entity is hostile to the syrian killers, he’s wrong
How AlterNet and Salon fell for “gang rape” fatwa (abridged)
Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, Jan 3 2012
On Dec 29, Eretz Zen tweeted this video from Lebanon’s al-Jadid channel, with English subtitles and a logo with the words “Eretz Zen” obscuring the al-Jadid logo:
Eretz Zen’s bio claims him to be “A secular Syrian opposed to having my country turned into a Taliban-like state.” This is of course completely unverifiable. Al-Jadid does not provide any evidence of the “fatwa” or say when, where or by what means it was supposedly issued. Al-Arifi is an ultra-conservative Wahhabi cleric with 3.5 million Twitter followers and more than 1.4 million Facebook fans. He has been prominent in calling Syrians to join the armed opposition to Assad and demanded that other countries intervene militarily and send weapons to overthrow it. Al-Arifi has openly engaged in sectarian incitement against Shi’as, for example in this video from Feb 2012, which has more than 1.1 million views.
A video posted on YouTube on Jan 1 shows al-Arifi ridiculing the supposed fatwa, saying such a thing could never be said by any “sane person” and warning that he knows of at least nine social media pages that impersonate him and try to attribute words to him that he hasn’t spoken. He also said that such falsehoods were disseminated by stations which he did not name whose goal is to harm the image of Sunnis.
Al-Arifi also posted a denial on his Facebook page and on Twitter. The Twitter denial includes an image of a fake tweet al-Arifi said was circulating online, which was an obvious hoax because it contained far more than 140 characters.
News of the “fatwa” was disseminated widely on social media in Arabic. Press TV carried a report on the alleged fatwa on its website. However it is not the Iranian report that appears to have been the most influential. The Daily Bhaskar, which appears to be a website that habitually reports lurid and dubiously sourced stories of non-Muslim women being raped and victimized by Muslims, also carried the “Eretz Zen” video. It traveled through USraeli Islamophobic networks to AlterNet and Salon. On Jan 1 the English-subtitled “Eretz Zen” video was embedded in a report on the website RadicalIslam.org with the headline “Cleric Issues Fatwa Allowing Gang Rape of Syrian Women.” RadicalIslam.org states that it is supported by the Clarion Fund. What’s notable is that the RadicalIslam.org report uses the term “gang rape,” which also appeared later on AlterNet and Salon.com. The term “gang rape” does not appear in the al-Jadid report. This is a clue that perhaps the story traveled from ultra-right-wing RadicalIslam.org to “progressive” AlterNet without anyone raising any red flags. On Jan 2, AlterNet claimed:
A prominent Saudi cleric has issued a fatwa 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.”
AlterNet has posted an apology and analysis of the story’s origins, saying:
On Jan 2, AlterNet was one of several outlets that published what turned out to be an article based on a false report. We would like to apologize to our readers for the error.
Even after this analysis and AlterNet’s apology and retraction, MSN.com promoted the hoax with the title Saudi cleric calls for gang rapes to soothe weary Syrian fighters, published one hour after the Electronic Intifada posted this analysis. At approximately 15:30 UTC on Jan 3, Salon deleted their story, which was sourced from AlterNet. At 18:22 UTC on Jan 3, the Electronic Intifada was notified that the MSN Now story has been amended with this correction:
AlterNet, which was one of several outlets reporting on the allegations, has issued a retraction on this story after Muhammed al-Arifi denied he made these comments. “No sane person” would’ve said such a thing, the cleric says in a new YouTube video. @intifada Thank you for alerting us and reading msnNOW.com. We have retracted the story.
The online news portal of New Zealand’s Channel 3 promoted the hoax before it was exposed by the Electronic Intifada and corrected by other publications. Other reports of the hoax “fatwa” at The Inquisitor, B92, and Digital Journal also report the denial.