Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Iman al-Obeidi: Victim Or Slanderer?

Libyan officials take Iman al-Obeidi into custody

Further to my posting yesterday, and confirming its factual validity, the Libyan woman who was arrested after telling foreign journalists she had been gang-raped by Colonel Gaddafi's troops has herself now been charged with slander.

Perhaps Bill O'Reilly can travel to Libya immediately and explain to the authorities there that the idea that Muhammad could have taught that Muslim men can rape women and not be held accountable is "hard to believe".

Another notable aspect of this story is the fact that just because the men in question are now suing Iman al-Obeidi does not mean that they are innocent of the crime, since the Islamic definition of slander is different from the Western conception.

According to a canonical hadith (Muslim b.32, no.6265), Muhammad was once asked to define slander, or "backbiting". He answered: "Backbiting implies your talking about your brother in a manner which he does not like" - even if a given accusation is true. Hence the translator of the authoritative Islamic legal manual Reliance of the Traveller asserts the following in a footnote:

Slander (ghiba) means to mention anything concerning a person that he would dislike, whether about his body, religion, everyday life, self, disposition, property, son, father, wife, servant, turban, garment, gait, movements, smiling, dissoluteness, frowning, cheerfulness, or anything else connected with him...

So in Islam, to slander someone does not necessarily mean you have said something about them that is false; only that you have said something that they would prefer you didn't mention in public.

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