An unsubstantiated story which alleged that a “Halal” sex shop would soon open in the Muslim holy city of Makkah has gone viral in recent days. But, the story has been labelled as fabricated after being propagated via an Arabic-language Moroccan website which seems to have deliberately used a sensational – yet slightly misleading – headline.
In a story dated April 12, 2015, Moroccan news website Alyaoum24 carried a story with the headline “Moroccan intends to open a Halal sex shop in Makkah.”
The story, which was partly rewritten using a separate interview that Moroccan businessman Abdelaziz Aouragh – who owns a sex products business – gave AFP, says that Aouragh is “willing to open a sex shop in Makkah;” a statement which doesn’t correlate with what the story headline suggests. However, the story only gained momentum ten days later, when British daily The Independent claimed that the sex shop will actually open in Makkah and attributed the inaccurate information to Alyaoum24, which has not published a clarification or corrected its misleading headline as of the time this article was published.
Many arab bloggers retweeted or shared the story without verifying its content. (Photo courtesy: Facebook) The story, given its obvious sensationalist nature, was further propagated when several Arab bloggers and social media users retweeted or shared it extensively. On Twitter, Saudi blogger and Wall Street Journal reporter Ahmed al-Omran slammed the tens of international media outlets that republished the story without verifying the information. “Just because some guy_wants_to open a halal sex store in mecca doesn’t mean he_will_or even_can_open it #ProTip,” tweeted al-Omran yesterday. This is the second story this month originating from Moroccan media outlets to make false assumptions with regard to religious issues in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, a fabricated story claiming that the Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Sheikh had issued a fatwa (religious edict) allowing men to eat their wives also originated from a Moroccan online news site called “Code.” After several pro-Iranian news outlets – such as Lebanon Tayyar.org and Tehran-funded Al-Allam news channel – took the unsubstantiated edict story, the Saudi grand mufti responded by giving a statement to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) and categorically denied having ever issued such a fatwa.
In an interview with CNN Arabic, the Moroccan site’s editor, Ahmad Nujaim, said that the wife-eating fatwa was meant as political satire and was published in a satirical column carrying the name “Akhbar al-Tanz,” which in Moroccan dialect means “sarcastic news.” “We have no (anti) position towards Saudi Arabia, and we are not targeting its establishments, we just make fun out of everyone,” Nujaim said.