Shaykh Musa Furber has written a series of three responses to the increasing amount of fabrications of Fatwas on the topic of sexual violence and perversions. A number of those alleged Fatwas are related to Syria, such as the “rape Fatwa” and the “sexual Jihad Fatwa” both ascribed to Muhammad al-Arifi, as well as another “rape Fatwa” ascribed to Yasin al-Ajlawni. Despite all of them being fabricated, Assadist propagandists, sympathizers and apologists have had a field day in using them to demonize the Syrian revolution. Shaykh Musa’s three entries are as follows:
Fetish for Titillating Fatawa: Tunisia’s “sexual Jihad”
As of late there have been several alleged fatawa attributed to popular Salafi or pro-jihadist sheikhs. Many of the alleged fatwa prove to be fabrications. An article on pathos provides a summary with examples, including fatawa allegedly endorsing gang-rape, banning phallus-shaped food for women, permitting necrophelia, and endorsing divine sodomy. So there seems to be a fetish for forging titillating fatawa, especially those endorsing forbidden sex and sexual violence.
The latest installment of titillating, fabricated fatawa comes via a story in Al-Monitor. The story mentions how innocent, gullible, pious, Muslim women from formerly-secular Tunisia—under the influence of Salafism and errant fatawa—are heading to the battlefields of Syria to offer comfort-sex to rebels as a form of “sexual jihad”. The sheikh who was listed as the source of the fatwa denied having issued it.
The author of the latest fabrication deserves some credit for creatively weaving in so many things sure to grab media attention.
So why is the media creating an erotic fan-fiction fatwa genre? Is it as simple as knowing their markets: that sex and violence sell, so Muslim sex and violence will sell even better?
The Media’s Infatuation With “Gang Rape” Fatwa
Earlier this year, the media was all abuzz with news about a scandalous “gang rape” fatwa that had been issued by a prominent Saudi cleric on Twitter. The story was proven to be invented and spread by Islamophobes. Many of the western media outlets that promoted the story have since amended, retracted, or deleted their stories. Although the story was thoroughly discredited, it is still being passed off as fact, especially amongst conservative news outlets. In spite of being discredited for two months, a report two days ago in Human Events uncritically cites it as an established fact while mentioning a suspiciously similar fatwa. Inclusion of such erroneous information as fact, the lack of links to the source material on YouTube, and that The Human Events Group is the sole source for the so-far uncorroborated story should all raise doubts concerning the merits of the article. Unfortunately, the Washington Times with its “reputation for hard-hitting investigative reporting” has accepted it as gospel truth and, citing it as its only source,joined in the infatuation with “gang rape” fatwa.
It seems that the media is concerned only with fatawa that are sensational and scandalous – regardless of their merits as fatawa or the relative frequency of such items. Private individuals might be excused for accidentally spreading errors and falsehoods. But it is entirely inexcusable when agencies and institutions do the same and pure negligence to pass off such dubious information without any critical analysis. It is also entirely inexcusable to intentionally spread errors and falsehoods – and reprehensible to do so maliciously. When we are faced with questionable opinions, we need to behave as good citizens and operate within the expectations of civil society: we need to verify and, if qualified, offer criticism which can lead to a correct or better answer. We also need to be respectful – not engage in personal attacks against and mockery of the source (whether it be the individual or the religion itself). Being good members of civil society is a challenge for us all. We must hold ourselves to high standards regardless of how others behave.
UPDATE The Human Events report lists “Salafi Sheikh Yasir al-‘Ajlawni” as the source of the rape fatwa. This is also the name given in the Arabic source for the story. It turns out that there isn’t a Salafi Sheikh with that name. But there is a Salafi Sheikh Yasin al-‘Ajlawni, currently residing in Irdbid, Jordan, who does fit the description. Those who are interested in a more accurate picture of things will find this early article, dated March 11, 2013 which correctly names the source. This article also includes comments from someone claiming to be “Yasin Ahmad Yasin al-‘Ajlawni” which are quite calm and sober, give backstory to what he said, and argue that his words are being misrepresented. There is a story here. It just isn’t the one they’re writing about.
Latest Episode in the “Gang Rape” Fatwa Frenzy
Earlier I wrote about the media’s (and public’s) infatuation with scandalous fatawa, like the “gang rape” fatwa currently making its rounds. This latest fatwa story made its way into English via an article in [Human Events] which attributed the fatwa to “Salafi Sheikh Yasir al-‘Ajlawni,” currently residing in Jordan and formerly in Damascus. Another piece by the same author links to a March 12 article on tayyar.org as its source. Ten minutes of digging produces an earlier March 11 article in Jordan News, naming the Salafi Sheikh as “Yasin al-‘Ajlawni,” currently residing in Irbid, Jordan. The article includes comments from a “Yasin Ahmad Yasin al-‘Ajlawni” who explains the backstory of his fatwa. He explicitly denounces calling for the rape of Syrian non-Muslim women and states that his fatwa called for protecting Syrian women from the rapes committed by the Syrian army itself.
The latest development comes in an April 7 article in Independent Catholic News concerning Aleppo’s Christian community. It includes the following:
Fr David [Fernandez, a missionary of the Institute of the Incarnate Word] said: “Yesterday, Yasir al-Ajlawni – a Jordanian Salafi sheikh, resident in Damascus, released a fatwa on Youtube, declaring that it is lawful for opponents of the regime of Bashar al-Assad to rape “any Syrian woman not Sunni. According to the sheikh, capturing and raping Alawi or Christian women is not contrary to the precepts of Islam.”
There is much wrong with this claim. First, the Jordanian Salafi would be “Yasin al-Ajlawni” not “Yasir al-Ajlawni.” Second, he is a resident of Irbid, Jordan, not Damascus, Syria. Third, Yasir al-Ajlawni denied making such a fatwa. Forth, the fatwa he referred to predates April 6 by many weeks.
There is a story here. But the story is not about actual gang rape fatwas but rather the use of hoax fatwas in the propaganda war against the Syrian opposition.