The holy failThe holy fail

Mecca sex shop report fools media

Misleading Moroccan story about controversial development in holy city was carried by major international news outlets

An illustrative photo of veiled Muslim women purchasing lingerie. (screen capture: YouTube)
An illustrative photo of veiled Muslim women purchasing lingerie. (screen capture: YouTube)

Sex may sell, but not in Mecca. Non-Muslims and sex shops will be still be a non-existent sight in the Saudi Arabian holy city, despite a titillating, yet false, Arabic media report this month that managed to fool major media outlets and generate considerable controversy.

The report, originally written by Moroccan news website Alyaoum24 on April 12, was published with the title “Moroccan intends to open a Halal sex shop in Mecca” and featured quotes from a year-old interview conducted by the AFP with Moroccan businessman and sex shop owner Abdelaziz Aouragh, according to an article published Friday by al-Arabiya.

The story’s headline, however, proved to be fallacious, as Aouragh merely said he was willing to open a sex shop in the holy Saudi Arabian city and never actually was given the authority to do so.

Despite the fact that the headline did not accurately reflect the content of the story, the report was covered by media outlets around the world, including the International Business Times, The Independent, the Daily Express and The Huffington Post, with many major news publications running inaccurate translations of the original text.

The story, given its controversial subject matter, was also shared extensively on social media outlets and discussed widely on online forums by Internet users from around the globe.

Saudi journalist and Wall Street Journal reporter Ahmed al-Omran criticized the media for irresponsible journalistic practices, slamming news outlets for carrying the story without properly fact checking its content.

While Mecca may not be welcoming a sex shop anytime soon, a large number of lingerie stores do openly operate throughout Saudi Arabia.

In 2012, the Gulf state lifted a ban on female employees from working in stores, as they were previously staffed entirely by men.

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