Last month, according to Emirates247 ,“A Saudi court sentenced two Asian housemaids to 10 years in jail and ordered their lashed 1,000 times each after they were found guilty of indulging in sorcery at their employers’ houses…Their Saudi employers reported the two maids to the Gulf country’s feared religious police, saying they had discovered that their families had been harmed because of sorcery practiced by the maids against them.”
Emirates247 does not go into details, perhaps because its written for an English-reading audience which has enough difficulties dealing with the bare-bone facts of the report. However, to give the reader an idea of the “colorful” nature of these many anecdotes of witches and warlocks emanating from Saudi Arabia—the birthplace and preserver of Islam—consider this 2010 Arabic report about a flying, naked African sorceress arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2006.
Men from the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice were surprised to find a naked African sorceress while conducting a raid on one of the dens of “Magic and Sorcery” in Medina. The men reported that they tried to cover the witch but she refused. The biggest surprise for them was when she “flew like a bird” out of the room and disappeared from the apartment leaving the twenty men of the committee in awe. According to the newspaper ‘Ukaz (issued Monday, May 29, 2006), the men of the Committee carried out the raid on Sunday and found more than 20 women in the den as well as the naked African witch. The newspaper said that men continued to search for the “witch” on other floors of the building. They were later surprised to find a man and his children crying out for help. The man reported that “A naked African woman fell from the ceiling in the kids’ room as they slept. The kids woke up scared and started screaming. We all ran away after I was sure she’s a witch.”
The report continues by saying that the men finally found the “witch” and paralyzed her by reciting Koran verses. They covered her up and arrested her, claiming to find “incense, beads and sorcery material as well as videos to teach magic and a piece of a school girl’s uniform, which alerted them to the fact that the ‘witch’ might have put a school girl under a spell.”
Commenting on the story, senior Islamic cleric Sheikh Abdul Mohsin al-‘Ubeikan said “Magic is one of the greatest sins and may lead to atheism and polytheism. It is unfortunate that wicked work is practiced in the city of the Prophet, peace be upon him.” He also declared that “some witches may ride a broom and fly in the air with the help of jinn. This woman flew to another floor to escape the committee with the help of jinn. I would like to thank the committee men for their blessed efforts to destroy each spoiler and ask Allah for his help as they support everyone.”
Bizarre? The fact is, there is no end to such stories emanating from the prophet’s peninsula. In April 2012, according to the Arabic website Al Shorfa, an al-Qaeda affiliated group in Yemen, called Ansar al-Sharia (or the “Supporters of Sharia Law”), beheaded a woman for “practicing magic and sorcery.” Members of the group broke into the home of Sharifa Amr—a local healer who used natural herbs to treat sick people—“beheaded her, and then hung her severed head in front of the home of another popular healer in the region, as a warning that he might share her fate.”
In 2011, “Saudi Arabia’s religious police arrested an Indonesian housemaid for casting a magic spell on a local family and ‘turning its life upside down.’” The maid “confessed” to using sorcery, and “commission experts took the magic items to their office and managed to dismantle and stop the spell.” In 2008, another women in the Arab kingdom was set to be beheaded for witchcraft.
This, then, is the mentality that governs Saudi Arabia—based not on “tribal culture” but Islam’s authentic teachings.
Far from being absurd aberrations to be dismissed, such accounts are stark reminders of the incompatibility between the Western and Muslim worldviews—remember Islam’s bewitched animals?—or, more to the point, the difficulty Western peoples have transcending their own paradigms and understanding the Muslim worldview in its own right, above and beyond the issue of sorcery.