Editor's Note: This story has been updated to reflect feedback after our first version.
The notion that suicide bombers were allowed to ask for anal sex to help hide explosives in their rectums — advanced by a researcher from a conservative think tank — is based on an Internet rumor, says a pair of Arab-speaking bloggers.
Raymond Ibrahim, a fellow at the ultra-conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center, said this week he'd found a 2010 Arab news video in which a Muslim cleric is caught explaining why sodomy is permissible if part of "martyrdom operations." But blogger Ali Abunimah saw the video and recognized the man in it as actually Abdallah al-Khallaf, who has a television show and who the bloggers say posted the video to incite confusion.
Both Abunimah and Ibrahim agree that the man in the video is reading something he himself had heard about elsewhere — which Abunimah said amounts to a rumor being read by a television talking head. He says the story is posted in Arabic-speaking forums as a joke but is read as if serious by al-Khallaf.
When contacted again today, Ibrahim refused to believe the video is perpetuating a "hoax," a word used by Abunimah. Ibrahim sticks by his translation of the video, which shows al-Khallaf reporting that suicide bombers were allowed to ask fellow militants for anal sex because their mission overrides other religious teaching.
"I stand by my piece," Ibrahim said. "Bottom line, and even they admit this: that is a real show, that man who reports on it is not being facetious, etc. In other words, short of that same show saying now that this was all a hoax, they have no way to prove that it was — except by relying on the Western inability to believe this story in the first place."
Abunimah says the whole idea just inflames Islamophobic people across the world who make little distinction between suicide bombers and ordinary Muslims. And he is quick to count Ibrahim among them. Ibrahim's association with the Horowitz-related group is called into question, since Horowitz has been cited by the Southern Poverty Law Center as part of what it calls "The Anti-Muslim Inner Circle."
"On his TV show, Abdallah al-Khallaf presented this hoax to his audience as if it were real, with a specific purpose: to incite his Shia Muslim audience against Wahhabi Sunni Muslims to whom he attributes what he would see as such depraved behavior," said Abunimah, alluding to the homophobia that underlies the report.
In the report being read in the video, Ibrahim's account says a cleric is asked, "Is it permissible for me to let one of the jihadi brothers sodomize me to widen my anus if the intention is good?" Although the cleric reminds everyone that sodomy is forbidden, he offers an exception. "Jihad comes first," he said, according to Ibrahim's translation, "for it is the pinnacle of Islam, and if the pinnacle of Islam can only be achieved through sodomy, then there is no wrong in it." The supposed cleric actually makes the case that not only is sodomy allowed, it could be required. "If obligatory matters can only be achieved by performing the prohibited, then it becomes obligatory to perform the prohibited, and there is no greater duty than jihad," the cleric reportedly says. "After he sodomizes you, you must ask Allah for forgiveness and praise him all the more."
Ibrahim considers this a real philosophy and ties it to Abdullah Hassan al-Asiri, who attempted to assassinate a Saudi Arabian security chief in 2009. The bomber's parents said their son had been taken by extremists, and he went on to become the first suicide bomber to use the new body-bomb tactic. The 23-year-old al-Asiri is said to have hidden an explosive device inside himself to avoid metal detectors, then detonated it.