Saudi Writer Wins Plagiarism Case Against Prominent Cleric

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A picture from an exhibition in Jeddah in 2009. (Photo: Al-Akhbar)

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.


It is strange but true that many reputable people and politicians have been facing the accusations of plagiarism in today's world because it has become much easier to detect content stealth with the help of a plagiarism check software.

Seriously, even if the Sheikh did plagiarize...the main object of writing books is so people may learn, benefit and be inspired...and masha-Allah (even if it is plagiarized) many people hav benefitted and have been inspired from Sheikh Aaidh's book...(Though he should have asked permission from the original authors or at least acknowledged that he is quoting them.....) But the original authors should b grateful that someone is benfitting, which is the aim of writing...though if their intention is to gain name and fame n not to educate ppl then there is nothing that can b said......

I agree... I have found numerous mistakes in his books, and these books were previously published in Arabic.

I love the sheik, one of my favorites, if he made a mistake, he apologised, Allah is forgiving, why arent we, are we better than him?

Eh? More like he disgraced himself even further by using cheap tactics like hiding behind Quranic verses - typical of his kind! This is the best piece of news to come out of that godforsaken country in a LONG time!

It seems we cannot stop plagiarism, no matter what we do.

"shake up the blind reverence in the shiekhs doctors," so is that what all this is about? Defamation of Islamic scholars, defamation of Al Islam, what's left standing mordern animism labelled secularism. Instead, I pray that our revered scholars smarten up to the defamation campaign against them! Know this: there are organizations with massive funding, heavy political and diplomatic backing following your activities and meticulously sifting through them looking for such set ups. Young unknown female against a famous popular scholar; Their Rules. Beware!

This ´Â'idh you are trying to defend made fun of the scholars and made indirectly takfir of them. This our shaykh Ahmad bin Yahya an-Najmi has presented in his book, al-Mawrid al-`azb az-Zulal, he quotes that aidh said in a poem, Da` al-Hawshi wa ukhruj, that he published in his book, biLahn al-Khulud,
"صل ما شئت وصم فالدين لا يعرف العباد من صلى وصاما أنت قسيس من الرهبان ما أنت من أحمد يكفيك الملاما تترك الساحة للأوغاد ما بين قزم مقرف يلوي الزماما".
stop defending these wolves in sheepclothing, they are the real ones that defame scholars. And to claim that scholars stole whole books and published them as their own is a degrading of scholars.

الحمد لله, truth must be told.

Are you saying he didn't plagiarize? From what it seems, it is quite clear he has done so.

I am absolutely shocked and horrified by al-Qarni's behaviour, all the more so because I have almost completed an Italian translation of the said work and have encountered numerous problems with the text. I totally sympathise with Aededan's case, however, it must be said that the popularity of Qarni's book reflects a genuine dearth of discerning readers. I hope that this case gets all the publicity it deserves in order to shake up the blind reverence of 'sheikhs, doctors' who resort to such measures to increase their publicity and boost their egos.

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