Why Did Some News Sources Fall for Egyptian Necrophilia Hoax?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Necrophilia Hoax Headline (Huffington Post)
Taking news sources at their word resulted in a highly controversial, but false, story being spread all over the Internet three weeks ago about Egyptian lawmakers legalizing necrophilia.
The rumor apparently began with columnist Amr Abdel Sami at Al-Ahram, Egypt’s state-owned newspaper. In late April, he wrote that the Islamization of Egyptian society might get so extreme that parliament could consider legislation allowing a man to have intercourse with his wife after death (an idea reportedly proposed by Moroccan Sheikh Zamzami Abdul Bari).
Soon after that, Saudi Arabia’s Al-Arabiya news channel re-reported the necrophilia story on its English Web site. This allowed news outlets in the West, including The Huffington Post and the Daily Mail, to pick up the article, but without fact-checking it. In no time, social media sites and blogs were abuzz with outrage over the idea that Egyptians were entertaining the idea of sex with the dead.
Not all Western newspapers ran blindly with the story. On April 26, Dan Murphy at the Christian Science Monitor wrote skeptically about the existence of the controversial legislation, and a few days after that, he reported there was no validity to the rumor.
Helena Hägglund, a freelance journalist based between Cairo and Stockholm, and Sam Carlshamre, an Arabic PhD candidate at Lund University, wrote last week in the Egypt Independent that “the whole story has turned out to be based on a bizarre chain of rumors, with journalists seeing what they want to see and hearing what they want to hear, without any fact checking.”
According to Hägglund and Carlshamre, some newspapers, such as Sweden’s largest morning daily, Dagens Nyheter, admitted they were at fault for reprinting the story without verifying its details. Others, like the Daily Mail, Huffington Post, and Jezebel, have not apologized for contributing to the hysteria or their exploitation of Islamophobia.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
To Learn More:
Necrophilia Law: How Western Media Savors Islamophobia (by Helena Hägglund and Sam Carlshamre, Egypt Independent)
Egypt 'Necrophilia Law'? Hooey, Utter Hooey (by Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor)



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