Modern-day fear and punishment
witchcraft & sorcery in
Restrictions on religious freedom in Saudi Arabia:
Saudi Arabia is a predominately Muslim country where Wahhabism -- a fundamentalist form of Islam's Sunni tradition -- is widely promoted and practiced. The country has severe restrictions on religious freedom. For example, a Christian can own a Bible, they can usually bring one into the country, and they can read it in private. But they are not allowed to practice their religion in public. Muslims are not allowed to convert to another religion. There are serious penalties to persons found guilty of importing Bibles or Christian literature into the country for distribution and/or proselyzing. The Gideons International reports that Saudi Arabia is hardly unique in their policy towards importing Bibles. Other predominately Muslim countries that forbid importation and distribution of Bibles include:
- Comoros Islands
- Uzbekistan, and
- Yemen. 1
In addition, at least two Communist countries forbid importation of quantities of Bibles:
- North Korea, and
- Peoples Republic of China. 1
Restrictions also exist in Saudi Arabia on witchcraft and sorcery. A common belief within Islam is that God completely controls the universe and all events in it. Absolutely nothing happens without the approval and direction of Allah. Thus, a person who believes that they can cast a spell to change an event in the future, or believes that they can predict future events, are violating a basic belief of Islam.
Human Rights Watch reported in 2010 that Judges are given great flexibility in their rulings:
"... judges can issue death sentences in three types of cases:
- offenses against God (hudud), including apostasy,
- offenses against persons, such as murder ... [or] rape, both of which are defined under Shari'a, or Islamic law, or
- on a "discretionary basis" for any act that a judge considers merits the death penalty, even where those acts are not defined as criminal offenses." 2
Waleed Abu al-Khair, a Saudi lawyer and human rights activist, referred to the death penalty in his country. He said:
"The punishment is always beheading for anyone found guilty of witchcraft." 3
2009-OCT/NOV: Arrests for witchcraft and sorcery were increasing in Saudi Arabia:
Some examples were:
- The Saudi newspaper Okaz reported during 2009-OCT that the religious police had arrested an Asian man in the city of Ta'if. He was accused of allegedly using supernatural powers -- presumably by issuing love spells -- and resolving marital problems. He was charged with sorcery and charlatanry. His trial started during 2009-OCT. 4
- During late 2009-NOV, Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said that:
"The cassation court in Mecca should overturn the death sentence imposed on [another man], Ali Sabat, by a lower court in Medina on November 9 for practicing witchcraft. ... Human Rights Watch called on the Saudi government to cease its increasing use of charges of "witchcraft" which remains vaguely defined and arbitrarily used. ..."
"Saudi courts are sanctioning a literal witch hunt by the religious police. The crime of 'witchcraft' is being used against all sorts of behavior, with the cruel threat of state-sanctioned executions." 4
Ali Sabat had lived in Lebanon where he had appeared on the Lebanon satellite television station Sheherazade. He had allegedly given advice and made predictions of future events to listeners. Later, during 2008-MAY, he was arrested while on a pilgrimage to Medina in Saudi Arabia by the religious police -- formally called the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. The police charged him with witchcraft. He was found guilty, and in late 2009, sentenced to be executed. His execution was later stayed after pressure from Lebanon and from some human rights groups. 4 During late 2010, the Supreme Court of Saudi Arabia refused to ratify the death penalty because there was no proof that anyone was harmed by his activities. 5
- Also during 2009-NOV, another Saudi Arabian man was arrested for sorcery and charlatanry.
According to Human Rights Watch, witchcraft
"... remains vaguely defined and arbitrarily used" in Saudi Arabia." The country's legal system has no written penal code. Judges are given wide discretion to decide which acts are criminal and to impose punishment if the person is found guilty. 4
2012-APR: A Sri Lankan woman in Saudi Arabia faced a charge of witchcraft:
A family in Saudi Arabia was on a shopping trip in the port city of Jeddah. Included was their daughter, aged 13. The father complained to police that his daughter:
"suddenly started acting in an abnormal way, and that happened after she came close to ... [a] Sri Lankan woman."
Okaz, a Saudi Arabian newspaper, reported that the father reported the incident to the security forces who quickly arrested the woman. 3
2012-JUN: Saudi man beheaded for Witchcraft:
M. V. Ingram reported on the Live Science web site that Muree bin Ali bin Issa al-Asiri had abeen found guilty of practicing sorcery. The Interior Ministry said that he had been found with occult apparatus, including "books and talismans from which he learned to harm God's worshipers." He had also confessed to adultery with two women.
"Many Shiite Muslims -- like many fundamentalist Christians -- consider fortune-telling an occult practice and therefore evil. Making a psychic prediction or using magic (or even claiming to do so) is seen as invoking diabolical forces." 6
The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above
essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.
- Gideons International publishes a list of countries that will not allow inportation of Bibles for distribution. See: http://www.gideons.org/ This is a PDF file.
- "Saudi Arabia: Criminal Justice Strengthened. Shura Council Approves Legal Aid Program," Human Rights Watch, 2010-JAN-14, at: https://www.hrw.org/
- Zia H Shahm "Sri Lankan woman faces beheading on witchcraft charge," The Muslim Times, 2012-APR-22, at: https://themuslimtimes.info/
- "Saudi Arabia: Witchcraft and Sorcery Cases on the Rise. Cancel Death Sentences for 'Witchcraft'," Human Rights Watch, 2009-NOV-24, at: https://www.hrw.org/
- "Death Sentence of Convicted Sorcerer Rejected in Saudi Arabia," Amnesty International, 2010-NOV-12, at: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/
- Benjamin Radford, "Saudi Man Beheaded for Witchcraft," Live Science, 2012-JUN-22, at: http://www.livescience.com/
Originally posted: 2017-JAN-02
Author: B.A. Robinson