Plagiarism: The Permitted Crime!

Posted: January 30, 2010 in My Articles

Plagiarism: The Permitted Crime!

Situation A:

Khaled and Samer are two well-educated thinkers who are discussing current matters. Khaled comes up with a brilliant idea that appeals greatly to Samer. The next day, Samer writes an interesting article and publishes it in a notable newspaper. The whole article is based on Khaled’s idea, but Samer doesn’t even mention that the idea isn’t his own.

Situation B:

A famous writer and Islamic scholar writes a huge book that becomes very popular among readers. The whole book is based on a book by a distinguished “Sheikh”. The book sells very well…and no body notices the real writer of the book.

Situation C:

A successful company director and manager browses the internet to “copy and paste” ideas, phrases, and whole paragraphs in order to create a new line for the firm. She is applauded day and night for her creativity…and, of course, no thanks to Mr. Internet!

*****************

Unfortunately, the situations above are so common in the Saudi culture and temperament. Those “thieves” who live among us are never questioned or sued because we don’t appreciate the gift of thinking. We are not a thinking society and hence, we don’t consider stealing ideas a theft. Ironically and sadly enough, some of us don’t exert an effort to think, but seek others’ ideas desperately and attribute them to ourselves!

In a society that has such a careless attitude towards plagiarism, I don’t blame students who cheat from the internet or during exams! What they see in their supposed-to-be educational surrounding encourages them to lead an academic/professional life of “copy and paste” without a feel of guilt or shame (as long as no body knows or questions them!)

I think that we need to handle this matter seriously in order to contribute in raising an honest honorable generation of genuine educated beings. Why can’t we be brave enough to say that we liked a certain idea, and then worked our minds to develop it or even just used it as is? It is not disgraceful to use others’ ideas as long as we give them credit for it. I believe that education is not just about the number of certificates and achievements stuffing CVs; it’s about morals as well. I hope that we take a moment to remember to thank all the people who helped and inspired us to be what we are today.

One sincere inspiring word from a simple person is worth a whole book by a plagiarist!

I am thankful and grateful to every spark of idea that inspired me to write a short sentence. And…. oh! Sorry…I forgot to thank the thief who inspired me to write this article.

Maha

September 24, 2007

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Comments
  1. ADNISA says:

    You wrote something after a long time. This is a very big problem in Saudi Arabia. Most of the Saudi students do not learn enough even after getting their degrees from reputable universities. My father told me about some Saudis who would hire Indian and Pakistani graduates to do their assignments while they get their name on the PhD. Most reputable universities around the world require you to create a work cited to mention the sources of information and copying and pasting is not allowed.

    http://www.turnitin.com allows you to check if the articles have been stolen from the internet.

    http://adnisa.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/saudis-in-america/
    http://adnisa.wordpress.com/2010/01/17/should-saudis-travel-to-west/

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      thank u so much for ur comment, ADNISA. I haven’t been writing a lot lately because I am extremely busy…end of semester…u know…

      I heard about those stolen degrees and I’ve been asked to write someone’s MA research for 100000 SR! of course i refused…
      Detecting plagiarism will only solve half of the problem…I think creating awareness will help make people understand the awful thing they’re doing when they steal somebody’s work…but again there will always be people who care for obtaining a certificate more than gaining knowledge…

      thank u so much for ur comment and for the link.

      • ADNISA says:

        You refused a very huge amount by not doing their PhD. Very impressive. Maybe you can write a short story about it in your blog. Its not easy to create awareness about such things in Saudi Arabia. Saudi students may not be able to honestly qualify for the degree if they try to do it themselves. The only reason western universities give them admission is to make more profit. They make the admissions easy and accept every Saudi applicant. That will never help.

        http://adnisa.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/is-it-shirk-or-not/

  2. Chiara says:

    Plagiarism is indeed a crime, literally and figuratively. In academia it is considered academic fraud, and when serious enough results in a “failed due to academic misconduct” on a transcript and dismissal from the university–ie with little hope of getting into a good new one, unless resorting to further academic misconduct of hiding previous enrollments.

    Regarding the cultural issues, this is being addressed (delicately) on North American university campuses, as sometimes students come from cultures where it is not addressed, or where advancing one’s own ideas is more frowned upon, and they have little experience except in rote memorization and regurgitation. They genuinely need more help in understanding correct citation and what constitutes plagiarism.

    In general, plagiarism constitutes both theft and fraud: ie stealing someone else’s work, and pretending that one had the where with all to produce it oneself. It is punished harshly in journalism, literary endeavours, and on the internet as well, when people bother to use the laws enacted on intellectual property in the virtual world–essentially the same as those in the real world with the added issue of international reach.

    I recently had an experience of near-plagiarism of a large body of work in the blogosphere, so I can empathize fully. As you commented once before elsewhere, this is like an attempted theft of one’s “babies”. That is especially true if one considers Eric Erickson’s stages of development, and that of generativity which includes both child-bearing and productivity within one’s endeavours: professional, volunteer, and social. As well as plagiarism being a form of theft, in the instances you and I are alluding to personal betrayal is involved. How one justifies this on religious grounds, as in my scenario, is beyond me.

    Thanks for a stimulating post!

    • مها نور إلهي says:

      Thank you so much, Chiara for your enlightening and enriching comment. I think there should be stricter rules in order to prevent plagiarism, but what to do with people who know it’s not allowed yet still their conscious allows them to do it?

      • Chiara says:

        Thank YOU! With regard to the incorrigible, I think that is where the law, and punitive actions come in. As I said above those laws exist for internet violations as well. People need to be made more aware of it.

        Where there are violations of collaborations done in good faith one is still legally protected, especially if able to prove through research notes, drafts, original uploadings that the work originated with the author and not with the thief.

        One of the most memorable psychiatric assessments I’ve done was with a Masters student in English literature from a South Asian former British colony. She had run out of time to do a paper for one of her graduate courses so she copied one from the internet and turned it in. Needless to say she was caught. Graduate professors are usually very familiar with almost everything published in their fields, and given small classes are familiar with a student’s level and thinking. She was given an F on the course and her transcript contained a notation “due to academic fraud” or some such.

        She seemed to be justifying her actions as she had a lot to do, and in fact she was just stopping in for one session to my office because she was too busy and was off to get married in her home country, another reason she wouldn’t have time to make up the course right away, or try to minimize the damage to her own reputation.

        She felt the only one who understood her was the South Asian professor in the English Dept, no one else in Canada did. Awful us!

        This is quite different than a South Asian undergrad trained overseas who admitted his idea of research was to copy paste citations from others and that he probably hadn’t acknowledge them sufficiently or added in enough of his own work. His professor had given him the paper back with instruction on how not to plagiarize, what he had done wrong, and a warning. He never did it again.

        turnitin.com has been purchased by universities to catch all students with “borrowing” problems. Some don’t realize that you can’t plagiarize yourself either, eg hand in the same original work to more than one course. You have to do something new for the new course.

        Aside from one’s earthly endeavours to prevent being plagiarized, one must trust the plagiarists will eventually be caught, and punished here on earth first and later in the afterlife again.

  3. Unfortunately the problem of plagiarism is worldwide and not just limited to Saudi Arabia. With the internet, it is so easy to get our hands on countless sources of reference in our research and it is difficult sometimes to express oneself without directly quoting at least part of what we have read. And if this is the case, credit should be given where credit is due.
    I am having a problem now with a person who is taking my photographs, photoshopping them a little bit, and then claiming that she was the photographer. It’s upsetting because when I confronted her, she denied that she had stolen my photos and still claimed that she took them herself. Grrrr…

  4. مها نور إلهي says:

    Dear Susie,
    it’s some how good to know that we are not the only ones who are suffering from plagiarism… I used to think it was a Saudi specialty 🙂
    About the woman who stole your photos, keep tracking her and don’t give up….

    thanks a lot dear…

  5. coolred38 says:

    When your raised up in a culture in which nobody really asks your opinion…because all opinions have been settled and accepted centuries ago…its easy to assume what you think and have to say about a matter…doesnt matter. So who cares if you take thoughts from someone else?

    My children between them attended 35 years worth of schooling in Bahrain…not ONCE did they bring home a paper or test in which the words…”in your opinion”…or…”what do you think about” were written on it. They were never asked to express their own thoughts about anything…it was all memorizing what someone before them had thought.

    Not exactly intellectually stimulating.

  6. Dina says:

    I want to open a small business but i didn’t found a support! so can someone give an advise 🙂

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