January 8, 2016

"Sorcery is considered such a grave concern..."

"... that, in 2009, the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice created a specially trained unit to conduct witchcraft investigations. Saudi citizens are encouraged to report suspected witches and sorcerers anonymously, to a hotline. (A writer for the Saudi Gazette, an English-language newspaper, lauded the squad’s ability to eliminate 'magic the same way the security forces would defuse explosives.') Last spring, in Riyadh, ten government agencies took part in a state-sponsored sorcery-awareness workshop."

From "Sisters in Law/Saudi women are beginning to know their rights," by Katherine Zoepf in The New Yorker.

The Saudi Gazette no longer displays the quoted article, and I couldn't find it through the Wayback Machine or Google Cache. This might be the relevant text, at Crossroads Arabia. It contains the quoted text — which I've boldfaced — and purports to be "a good piece in the Arabic daily Alsharq from the Eastern Province (here translated by Saudi Gazette)":
An electronic newspaper recently reported that a housemaid in the city of Al-Ras, Qassim province, had performed sorcery on her sponsor and his family, immobilizing their movements. It said the Commission for Promotion of Virtues and Prevention of Vice (Haia) team specializing in dispelling sorcery and talismans was able to discover and ward off the sorcery at the right time.

The team had safely dispelled the magic the same way the security forces would diffuse explosives. The housemaid, who was not identified, was handed over to the concerned authorities for investigations and legal action.

This means that the case has taken a legal course and will be considered by a court. This step raises a number of legal questions that should be posed to legal experts. As the woman may seek the help of lawyers to defend her at the court, these legal representatives should then know how to deal with cases involving magic to provide their clients with correct and sound legal advice.

The main question that arises here is: how will anyone be able to prove a sorcery issue? How can anyone prove that the claimant and his family were under a magic spell? Has humanity been able to invent a device to measure the level of magic in bodies? Will this device be used as criminal evidence in courts, similar to DNA tests and coronary reports?
Yes, you want to slap your head at the idea of how to prove something the nonexistence of which is obvious. But attention to the need for evidence is a first step out of the predicament for people who do believe in witches. In American history, questioning the use of "spectral evidence" — testimony by persons claiming to be afflicted by invisible forces — was central in ending persecution:
On May 31, 1692, [Cotton] Mather wrote to one of the [Salem witch trial] judges, John Richards, a member of his congregation, expressing his support of the prosecutions, but cautioning; "do not lay more stress on pure spectral evidence than it will bear ... It is very certain that the Devils have sometimes represented the Shapes of persons not only innocent, but also very virtuous. Though I believe that the just God then ordinarily provides a way for the speedy vindication of the persons thus abused."... The later rejection of spectral evidence by Governor Phips and its exclusion from trial beginning in January 1693 immediately brought about far fewer convictions....

34 comments:

Bruce Hayden said...

This has been another of those deep dark secrets of Islam that is routinely suppressed by political correctness in the west. But, then, Christian clergy, and esp. apparently Roman Catholic clergy, still perform exorcisms. Not quite the same thing (I think that Islam may have something similar to banish Djinn/Jinn, or some such).

jaydub said...

Everyone knows how to do this. You just strap the supposed witch in a chair on the end of a long pole, then dunk the witch in whatever body of water is available. If the person floats to the surface she is in fact a witch, but if she sinks she is innocent. In Virginia Beach I lived on "Witch Duck Point" where Grace Sherwood was tried by "ducking" in 1706 and judged guilty of various acts of witchcraft. Other than the scarcity of bodies of water for ducking, I don't know why this wouldn't work in Saudi Arabia just as well.

Todd said...

No one should laugh that some in the ME believe in witchcraft as there are still large numbers of liberals in the US that believe in keynesian economics...

David Begley said...

Another reason to despise Saudi Arabia.

We should be charging them $100b per year for protection.

In the alternative, we slap a tariff on OPEC oil and we become energy independent.

traditionalguy said...

First you say, "You lying spirit, are you telling me the truth?" Then you flip a coin.

Next case.

rhhardin said...

Witchcraft is a girl scout merit badge.

Big Mike said...

Welcome to the Wahhabi version of Islam, taking you from the 21st century to the 12th.

Big Mike said...

@Todd, good point.

Drago said...

We have much to learn from this clearly superior non-white, non-western non-Christian culture: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-islamicstate-idUSKBN0UM0WH20160108

garage will be along shortly to explain how executing ones own mother is a truly courageous act (and certainly not icky like things those Israelis do).

Drago said...

Big Mike: "Welcome to the Wahhabi version of Islam, taking you from the 21st century to the 12th."

You could argue they will take us back to the 6th.

But what's half a millennia between friends?

Ann Althouse said...

What proportion of Americans believe in various ghosts/spirits/devils/angels that influence the affairs of the living?

I'm seeing 42% of Americans believe in ghosts. Just ghosts.

MountainMan said...

Todd said: "No one should laugh that some in the ME believe in witchcraft as there are still large numbers of liberals in the US that believe in keynesian economics..."

It's still early In the morning and that is already the comment of the day.. Right on, Todd, You have people here in the office laughing out loud.

David Begley said...

That's the 42% voting for Hillary.

Fernandinande said...

"Whoever believes that any creature can be changed for the better or the worse, or transformed into another kind or likeness, except by the Creator of all things, is worse than a pagan and a heretic. And so when they report such things are done by witches it is not Catholic, but plainly heretical, to maintain this opinion." -- Catholic Witch-hunting manual.

Original Mike said...

"Everyone knows how to do this. You just strap the supposed witch in a chair on the end of a long pole, then dunk the witch in whatever body of water is available. If the person floats to the surface she is in fact a witch, but if she sinks she is innocent. "

Personally, I'm fond of the bridge building method.

raf said...

Denying the prevalence of witchcraft, etc, just contributes to the dominant 'sorcery-culture' that is victimizing those innocents who do not dabble in the occult. The simple fact that someone feels ensorcelled means we should take their accusation seriously.

No?

Fernandinande said...

Ann Althouse said...
I'm seeing 42% of Americans believe in ghosts. Just ghosts.


Holy Ghosts, Batman!

It looks like "harrispoll.com" has is now sports oriented.

Gallup:
"The tendency to believe in some paranormal occurrences varies by ideology -- political conservatives appear significantly more skeptical than either moderates or liberals. Twenty-eight percent of conservatives believe in haunted houses versus 42% of moderates and 42% of liberals."
Also a lot of variation by age.

MadisonMan said...

Because of your tag, I'm singing this in my head all day.

Well, things could be worse. That sly, come-hither stare!

Laslo Spatula said...

Bob Dylan sang of renegade priests and treacherous young witches.

I think I have made my point.

I am Laslo.

Big Mike said...

@Drago, I love symmetry. Truth to tell there were mass executions for witchcraft in Christian Europe (and Salem, Mass) in the 15th through the 17th centuries, peaking around 1580 to 1630. According to Wikipedia there were still trials for witchcraft in Christian Europe as late as the 18th century. So the Arab Muslims are only about 500 years behind the West.

gspencer said...

"Sorcery is such a grave concern . . ."

Lemme fix that for ya,

"Islam is such a grave concern . . ."

rhhardin said...

A ghost is any internal contradiction. It sees itself not being seen.

Or a ghost is the becoming-body of spirit.

Equate the two. The internal contradictions make the thing possible, create its spirit.

As in a specter is haunting Europe.

mtrobertslaw said...

Hillary is well advised not to travel to Saudi Arabia.

Fernandinande said...

Big Mike said...
So the Arab Muslims are only about 500 years behind the West.


A lot less than 500 years.
Wikipedia:
"Victoria Helen McCrae Duncan (25 November 1897 – 6 December 1956) was a Scottish medium best known as the last person to be imprisoned under the British Witchcraft Act of 1735. She was famous for producing fraudulent ectoplasm made from cheesecloth."

Paul from Minneapolis said...

I think it would be good to acknowledge that the original citation's statement that a writer for the Saudi Gazette "lauded the squad’s ability to eliminate 'magic the same way the security forces would defuse explosives'" seems to be inaccurate in one way and possibly unfair in another more fundamental way.

buwaya puti said...

The Catholic church certainly does still perform exorcisms.
In that regard I have heard of some very queer things (in the non-sexual sense). There are more things in heaven and earth ...

n.n said...

If it cries, it's a baby, it may be aborted. If it doesn't cry, it's not a baby, it will be aborted, and/or cannibalized.

holdfast said...

So if this latest email thing pans out, it may really be Hillary For Jail 2016.

http://acecomments.mu.nu/?post=360951

It's still unlikely, but a Sanders vs Trump matchup is not out of the question. If Hillary! is forced to resign, can the Dems still parachute in a Biden, Kerry or (Gaia help us) Gore? Or is it down to Sanders and O'Malley?

traditionalguy said...

Fortunately, not believing in spirits makes them go away and pout. The poor people in India, Tibet and Africa have not discovered that secret yet.

In western history a witch was a male or female person that offered for a fee to manipulate Demon Spirit power to impose curses on another human or tribal group of humans to win a war or a fight. Needless to say, the competition between Wizards to see which one had access the biggest Demon Power alliance was once as popular as today's NFL prognosticators.

Interestingly, the First Five Books of the Bible were told/written by an Egyptian trained in the Religion of Egypt that was also in alliance with a Spirit that helped him win in a contest with the gods of Egypt.

Rusty said...

These people really need to get into this century. Plan B would be the late 19th century. Just shit eating stupid.

Unknown said...

My mother's masters' thesis was on the witch in English literature and how she went from a genuine figure of horror to a laughable figure over the course of years.

I also read of an interesting real life incident towards the end of that transition where a group of townsfolk bring a woman before a magistrate accusing her of having ridden her broom to London. His response: "Well, that's not against the law". (Unfortunately trying to google an exact hit for this brings up mostly a lot of recent stuff about Swaziland).

Drago said...

Althouse, the reason so many believe in ghosts is due to the many votes cast in our elections (in dem precincts) by those very same ghosts.

Plus, Patrick Swayze.

Eustace Chilke said...

Before any of you haters get up on your high horse over witch trials in Saudi Arabia, remember the terrible deads committed just a few centuries ago in the name of Christ. Not so smug now, I bet.

Michael K said...

I think there is a 50% chance that Saudi Arabia, as a kingdom, will not survive until next year.

Witches are the least of their problem.