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Ahead of elections, Egypt's state propaganda machine rolls on

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Last week, Egypt's state-owned newspaper Al Ahram helped kick up an international storm with a bit of dodgy journalism: It ran an opinion piece by Amr Abdel Samea, a former loyalist of deposed President Hosni Mubarak, that stated that Mervat el-Tallawy, the head of Egypt's National Council for Women, had complained that Egypt's parliament was considering a piece of legislation sponsored by Islamists to allow men to have sex with their wives after their death.

The story was translated into English by Al Arabiya, and was quickly picked up by outlets like the Huffington Post and the sensationalist British tabloid The Daily Mail, which distorted the original claim from a proposal to a done deal: "Egyptian husbands will soon be legally allowed to have sex with their dead wives," the tabloid claimed, apparently having misunderstood the original Arabiya translation. The story buzzed around the world, held up in blogs as evidence of the immorality of Islamist politicians. The current version of the Wikipedia article on necrophilia even has a section devoted to the claim.

The problem is that there was never any such proposal, at any stage of consideration, in the Egyptian parliament. Ms. Tallawy issued a statement today that says she's concerned about legislation that may harm the position of women in Egypt, but that there was never any "sex after death law" under consideration, let alone one she complained about. Arabiya followed up as well, quoting Parliament Secretary Sami Mahran as saying no such piece of legislation ever existed.

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