So many people have sent this story to me this morning that it seemed worth posting, but not as the cautionary tale it was meant to be. Rather, it is an object lesson in irresponsible journalism. Several days ago I posted this story from al-Arabiya, which has now circulated around the world and aroused considerable disgust. Even the most indefatigable Islamic supremacist apologists, such as the serial liar Sheila Musaji at The American Muslim, are embarrassed by it, and immediately tried to start explaining it away. Now Dan Murphy of the august Christian Science Monitor has come to their aid, reassuring us all that the story is "utter hooey." His evidence? Read on:
"Egypt 'necrophilia law'? Hooey, utter hooey," by Dan Murphy for the Christian Science Monitor, April 26 (thanks to all who sent this in):
Today, Egypt's state-owned Al Ahram newspaper published an opinion piece by Amr Abdul Samea, a past stalwart supporter of the deposed Hosni Mubarak, that contained a bombshell: Egypt's parliament is considering passing a law that would allow husbands to have sex with their wives after death.
It was soon mentioned in an English language version of Al-Arabiya and immediately started zipping around social-networking sites. By this afternoon it had set news sites and the rest of the Internet on fire. It has every thing: The yuck factor, "those creepy Muslims" factor, the lulz factor for those with a sick sense of humor. The non-fact-checked Daily Mail picked it up and reported it as fact. Then Andrew Sullivan, who has a highly influential blog but is frequently lax about fact-checking, gave it a boost with an uncritical take. The Huffington Post went there, too.
There's of course one problem: The chances of any such piece of legislation being considered by the Egyptian parliament for a vote is zero. And the chance of it ever passing is less than that. In fact, color me highly skeptical that anyone is even trying to advance a piece of legislation like this through Egypt's parliament. I'm willing to be proven wrong. It's possible that there's one or two lawmakers completely out of step with the rest of parliament. Maybe.
But extreme, not to mention inflammatory claims, need at minimum some evidence (and I've read my share of utter nonsense in Al Ahram over the years). The evidence right now? Zero.
Follow the progression of Murphy's thought. He first says that the chances of such legislation being voted on by the Egyptian parliament are zero. Then he says that it wouldn't pass, anyway. Then he says that he doesn't think anyone is even trying to get it passed. Evidence for his claim? None. He doesn't offer any. Then he claims that there is no evidence for the report in the first place.
By contrast, the al-Arabiya report is quite specific. It names Egypt’s National Council for Women (NCW) as mounting opposition to the measure, saying specifically that Dr. Mervat al-Talawi, head of the NCW, sent a message to the Egyptian People’s Assembly Speaker, Dr. Saad al-Katatni, complaining about it. It also names al-Ahram columnist Amro Abdul Samea, who wrote about the story.
All these specifics make this story open to easy verification. Murphy could have contacted Amro Abdul Samea, or Saad al-Katatni, or Mervat al-Talawi. But he didn't. He just decided it was "utter hooey" apparently just because it is so...icky. Or because it puts Islamic law in a bad light, especially since a Moroccan Muslim cleric has said the same thing, as Murphy grudgingly admits and then dismisses:
There was a Moroccan cleric a few years back who apparently did issue a religious ruling saying that husbands remained married to their wives in the first six hours after death and, so, well, you know. But that guy is far, far out on the nutty fringe. How fringe? He also ruled that pregnant women can drink alcohol. Remember, alcohol is considered haram, forbidden, by the vast majority of the world's Muslim scholars. Putting an unborn child at risk to get drunk? No, that's just not what they do. Whatever the mainstream's unpalatable beliefs (there are plenty from my perspective) this isn't one of them....
Maybe the story is false. Certainly al-Ahram and al-Arabiya don't have spotless records for accuracy. But that can only be established by fact-checking, not by wishful thinking, which is all that Dan Murphy offers here. The whitewash of noxious elements of Sharia is universal in the mainstream media, and when these noxious elements cannot be ignored, as in this case, it is a shame to see a staff writer for a respected publication simply waving them away without the slightest bit of evidence instead of confronting them honestly. A shame, but not a surprise.