Saudi Writer Wins Plagiarism Case Against Prominent Cleric
By: Mariam Abdallah
Published Wednesday, February 8, 2012
A young female Saudi writer sued a prominent cleric for stealing her work and won, despite a campaign of defamation against her.
Saudi female author Salwa Aededan won her lawsuit against prominent cleric Sheikh Ayad al-Qarni.
Aededan had accused al-Qarni of infringing on her intellectual property rights and claimed that sections of his book La Tayass (Do not Despair) were stolen from her own book, Hakaza Hazamo al-Yais (This is How They Defeated Desperation).
Aededan refused an offer to compromise give he is the “cleric, sheikh, doctor, poet, and author,” who initially denied the accusation and tried repeatedly to defame her.
The cleric had used his religious standing and media exposure to rally a group of dedicated students and followers against Aededan. These followers promptly used online forums and social media websites to attack the young author.
The case took almost one year to complete, during which al-Qarni repeatedly denied plagiarizing Aededan’s book.
Al-Qarni, a pioneer of the Islamic Awakening movement, held a book signing event at the Riyadh International Book Exhibition 2011 to promote his book.
He first responded to Aededan’s claims by tweeting the Quranic verse “O ye who believe! If a wicked person comes to you with any news, ascertain the truth,” prompting many of his supporters to flood the social media sites.
They launched pages and posted videos defending him while attacking Aededan, accusing her of seeking notoriety by standing up to a prominent cleric.
The case was resolved on January 24, when the Saudi culture ministry fined al-Qarni 30,000 Saudi riyals (US$8,000) and compensated Aededan with a sum of 300,000 Saudi riyals (US$80,000).
The court decided also to withdraw al-Qarni’s books from bookstores, ban its circulation, and blacklist it.
The Saudi cleric defended his position by claiming that the renowned theologian “Ibn Taymiyyah himself copied pages of his books from other scholars without mentioning a source or reference.”
Al-Qarni, who is also the author of Ishkor Housadak (Thank Those Who Envy You), tried to showcase himself as a forgiving cleric.
He cited several examples of great authors and poets copying each other or building on each other’s work, and recounted his own history of “serving science.” He even asked his supporters not to assault Aededan.
Al-Qarni’s statement was too little, too late. Aededan had already suffered from a wave of online abuse.
The young writer was portrayed as a criminal by al-Qarni’s supporters and by some media organizations for having dared to violate the sanctity of the prominent cleric’s standing.
The abuse increased after her protest in front of the culture ministry, when she called on the courts to issue a decision.
Aededan also published a letter addressing al-Qarni, saying: “Isn’t it ironic that a society which is outraged when women show an inch of their hair says nothing when a great scholar like Ibn Taymiyyah is defamed?”
Though the case is officially closed, it still generates a great deal of debate between al-Qarni’s opponents and his supporters, who still believe in his innocence.
After the trial, many recalled the statements of Samir Faraj, who claimed he was going to file a complaint against the Saudi cleric.
The Egyptian poet claimed al-Qarni had stolen his book Shuara Katalhom Shirahom (Poets Killed by Their Poems), and published it under a similar name Kasaid Katalat Ashabaha (Poems That Murdered Their Writers).
Faraj claimed that he had discovered the theft six years ago but did not know how to get his rights back.
He was encouraged by Aededan’s victory to bring his own complaint before the Saudi courts, yet another blow to the plagiarizing sheikh’s reputation.
This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.