The UK’s Guardian newspaper runs a Reuters report about the arrest of a Sri Lankan woman in Jeddah. What can I say? Such charges are nonsense, but the Saudi courts continue to deal with them instead of suggesting psychological counseling for those who claim to have been the victim.

Here’s another area, along with child marriage, where Saudi law needs to catch up with the 21st (or 18th) Century.

Sri Lankan woman faces beheading on witchcraft charge
Saudi Arabian authorities may order execution of woman after man reported her for casting a spell on his daughter

REUTERS – A Sri Lankan woman could face the death penalty by beheading after she was arrested on suspicion of casting a spell on a 13-year-old girl during a family shopping trip, a police spokesman said on Wednesday. The daily Okaz reported that a Saudi man had complained his daughter had “suddenly started acting in an abnormal way, and that happened after she came close to the Sri Lankan woman” in a shopping mall in the port city of Jeddah.

“He reported her to the security forces, asking for her arrest and the specialised units dealt with the situation swiftly and succeeded in arresting her,” Okaz reported.


April:19:2012 - 07:49 | Comments & Trackbacks (11) | Permalink
11 Responses to “More ‘Witchcraft’ in Saudi Arabia”
  1. 1
    Corey Said:
    April:19:2012 - 09:32 

    For someone who has spent considerable time in Saudi Arabia, I am disappointed with your dismissive attitude about witchcraft. I thought you would have been a bit more circumspect in your comments. While you and I may see witchcraft allegations as nonsense, it’s very real to Saudis and most Muslims. Witchcraft and ginns are mentioned in the Qur’an, so it’s hardly practical for someone to suggest they get therapy because they think they are the victims of witchcraft. You know as well as I do that that Saudis don’t challenge the Qur’an, so to be Saudi is to believe in witchcraft. Couldn’t you come up with something better than the “psychological help” angle? You just painted my family and friends as having mental health issues. I’m not sure how that encourages discussion.

  2. 2
    John Burgess Said:
    April:19:2012 - 10:23 

    @Corey: I didn’t address jinns in this piece, only witchcraft. Yes, even the Bible mentions witchcraft — as in the Witch of Endor — but Christianity, after close to 1,700 years, realized that what was being described was being misattributed. The ‘blame’ that was cast upon the supposed witch actually belonged to the person who misperceived what was happening.

    Yes, I’m well aware that various cultures have differing beliefs. That doesn’t mean that I have to accept the validity of their beliefs, even less the validity of the actions taken in response to those beliefs. I think there’s something seriously wrong when a 60-y/o Saudi woman can be executed because someone thought she was in cahoots with demons when she was only pulling a con game, one which, if treated as a con in the courts, would have led to nothing more than lashings, a fine, and perhaps some time in jail. Here, a young Sri Lankan woman is now in danger of losing her life because a teenager felt that something was off and her father believed her? Is there any witness more unreliable than a teenager?

  3. 3
    Sparky Said:
    April:19:2012 - 15:57 

    Corey a lot of incidences can be explained away as being mental…or psychological in nature…It is that in Saudi it is more acceptable to many people to feel or believe that they’ve been afflicted by a spell than to admit they are mentally either unstable or imbalanced. I’m not against reading some quran and sprinking holy water but when you are willing to chop a head based on nonsense allegations that is a mockery of justice. A mental is far worse for many Saudis to admit as it is an internal source. Rather to many they would much rather easily and effortlessy attribute their afflictions to external unseen forces or a poor Sri Lankan they bump into randomly in a shopping mall. For f’s sake! Many times such problems can be solved with heavy doses of meds or 7 black seeds. You choose your poison and I choose your cure. Also, it can be used manipulatively, oh that man you saw exiting the home was a jinn…and so forth. Most magic is simply mental focus which the majority of us use in our daily lives without ever thinking it magical.

    In addition, this case steals the cake in terms of ludicrous…

    When counseling, dosages of antipsychotics or other drugs do the trick there is something else at play….whose playing who…

  4. 4
    Andrew Said:
    April:19:2012 - 16:45 

    Corey,

    you say:

    “While you and I may see witchcraft allegations as nonsense, it’s very real to Saudis and most Muslims.”

    I am but one Saudi yet I can say that many, many Saudis and Muslims view modern “witchcraft” as nonsense, just as many Christians view modern Christian miracles wrought by Christian ministers as nonsense.

    What happened in the time of the Quran need not be viewed as happening today.

    Publicly addressing the issue, of course, would be perilous in our society, yet I do not believe that virtually all Saudis, and certainly not the bulk of all Muslims, believe in modern sorcerers.

  5. 5
    Corey Said:
    April:20:2012 - 09:41 

    @Sparky: Mental, no. Witchcraft used to manipulate, further one’s cause and to rationalize events, yes. Still, to deny the Qur’an on any level is a heavy burden to carry for Saudis.

    @Andrew: Like you I believe “what happened in the time of the Quran need not be viewed as happening today,” but I have yet to meet a Saudi who doesn’t believe in witchcraft, ginn and evil eye on some level. Even if it’s akin to not walking under a ladder even though you are not superstitious. Why tempt fate? But you hit the nail on the head: discussing, confronting or denying witchcraft is perilous in Saudi society. There’s a reason for that: Belief and refusal to deny the teachings of Islam. These things ought not be questioned, according to most Saudis.

    But both Sparky and Andrew ignore the main point of my argument. That is to dismiss one’s belief as mental illness and to seek therapy. Mr. Burgess is not required to “accept the validity of their beliefs” as he points out, but for Mr. Burgess — who has spent so many years in Saudi Arabia and presumably has many Saudi friends — to trivialize their beliefs and then dismiss it with a suggestion to seek therapy is beneath him in my view.

    And this argument has nothing to do with implementing the death penalty, which is a horror beyond reason. As Mr. Burgess points out, there is a distinction between witchcraft and fraud that Saudi authorities often appear to ignore. That’s the real crime.

  6. 6
    John Burgess Said:
    April:20:2012 - 09:54 

    @Corey: I might be willing to change my mind were Saudi courts to have all cases of witchcraft that are brought before them sent to a panel of Saudi psychologists to inform the judges’ opinions. People believe lots of things that are not true, often claiming that their religions tells them they must believe it. This goes for certain American and British Christians who get hot and bothered over Halloween or Santa Claus. At best, they’re ignorant; at worst, they’ve a mental problem.

  7. 7
    Corey Said:
    April:20:2012 - 10:49 

    True that, ’nuff said.

  8. 8
    dan Said:
    April:20:2012 - 10:57 

    John

    Christianity in Europe and the Americas may have been forced to adjust away from these notions, but there are a multitude of African pentecostal sects that are enthusiastically and violently witchhunting in a number of countries. The difference is that when these things creep back into a European or American context, it’s the witchhunters that are the ones ending up in the dock and getting sent down for their misdeeds.

    This may not have been an international story, but check out the details of the Kristy Bamu murder trial that concluded at the Old Bailey earlier this year for a flavour.

    Corey

    How do you suggest that the Saudis get off the hamster wheel in this respect then? We both know that sorcery doesn’t exist, and we both know that punishing people for imaginary crimes constitutes a serious injustice – there has to be some mechanism for resolving this that doesn’t involve contradicting holy writ.

  9. 9
    Sparky Said:
    April:21:2012 - 07:08 

    Corey: I don’t deny “sorcery” or “power of thought” (I prefer) exists (whether it works or not is a whole other subject), but I do ARGUE the means that one can go about CLAIMING, PROVING and ACCUSING people of such…It is cruel to accuse someone of casting a spell/ curse or of doing hocus pocus just because in their presence you have a need to act peculiar. I’m really laughting now as these words are coming forth. How do we know they weren’t beemed away from a different location. I do tend to believe in MAGIC if that is the right word. THe world is so magical :-)

    It is nonsense…or nonsense (sorcery) meeting nonsense (accusations)nonsense meeting nonsense should naturally negate each other. However, in Saudi it is taken one up on the Prophet’s time. Did the Prophet go on a witch hunt when he was affected by magic? Unless we have the means to get into the discussion of theoretical quantum mechanics and on that level measure what is IMPOSSIBLE to measure in real time, such cases should be dismissed. Such is much too impossible. However, one day it might be possible. How can you be both dead and alive at the same time? It will trip you out every time :-) Or how can you be here physically and your antimatter somewhere else…(where) way out there for some hahahahahahah?

    What particple beams were eminating from the accused brain at the time of the crime?

  10. 10
    jay kactuz Said:
    April:21:2012 - 18:47 

    “Publicly addressing the issue, of course, would be perilous in our society”

    Actually, any serious discussion of anything in the Quran or hadith is perilous in any Muslim country. Consider the case of the young man last month that simply wrote “I don’t like everything you did” (about Mohammed)and was hunted down and brought back to Arabia for… whatever.

    Did anyone ask what he “didn’t like”? Is any Muslim anywhere willing to ask the hard questions about simple verses or traditions?

    Andrew, most Muslims may not believe in sorcery, but they don’t believe in critical thought either. Actually I am beginning to think that Muslims live in a perpetual twilight zone (yes, like the TV series) in which reality and fantasy are often indistinguishable.

    Sparky – “How can you be both dead and alive at the same time?” Errr, hum, bitten by a vampire?

  11. 11
    Andrew Said:
    April:23:2012 - 04:23 

    Jay Kactuz:

    You say:

    “Actually, any serious discussion of anything in the Quran or hadith is perilous in any Muslim country”

    Bosnia is a Muslim society, with the bulk of the population being Muslims, yet I have seen there tracts from atheists and others distributed on street corners, with no reprisals.

    While I do not believe that offering such tracts to be a serious discussion, I have also seen in other places serious discussions by those who are clearly atheists.

    I believe that your assertion to be overly broad and thus inaccurate.

    Your statement that [most Muslims] “don’t believe in critical thought either” is also inaccurate.

    Muslims certainly do believe in critical thought, and it is inaccurate to broadly speak about such a large body of people in such a manner.

    Many Muslims live in dictatorships in which they must compartmentalise their thoughts, which itself requires a form of analysis and careful thought.

    Indeed, intellectuals (who were often moderate Muslims) in countries like Tunisia played a leading role in providing a cogent basis for the revolutions that occurred.

    To extrapolate from the case of Saudi to Indonesia or Mali would be incorrect.

    Saudi has a particular form of governmental Islam, and one must not say that all Muslims (or even all Saudis) profess that form.

    Corey:

    “Belief and refusal to deny the teachings of Islam. These things ought not be questioned, according to most Saudis.”

    You are right.

    But I understand from polling that many Americans hold similar beliefs about their Protestant Christianity.

    I believe that what is important (in the case of Saudi) is not merely public sentiment, but also governmental actions.

    In our country, it is ILLEGAL to openly question these issues, and not merely unpopular.

    And what constitutes the teachings of Islam in our Kingdom is set by the clerical establishment which is a part of the government, rather than non-governmental groups.

    So, while questioning tenets of Islam is and will be forever deeply unpopular, a more important question I believe is whether the clerical establishment should be an organ of the state.

    That relationship is mutable by the state, while personal views are of course not so.

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