Friday, April 16, 2010

More Sorcery in Saudi Arabia

Just a few days ago, I talked* about the disturbing fact that the Saudi Arabian government still believes in magic and sorcerers and considers it a crime to practice those (non-existent) dark arts.

Just another example of this has come up in the news recently, with a twist. In Saudi Arabia, a man, pretending to be a sorcerer** able to create love potions, would film and then blackmail the women who came to him, in order to rape them.

This man is disgusting, but the society that has made his crimes possible is even more sickening. Let us ignore the fact that for raping over 100 women, with the number being possibly as large as 350, he receives a punishment of 1000 lashes and 10 years in prison. My first inclination is to think that it isn't much of a punishment. If it were a western prison, I would be able to affirm that a sentence of 10 years is a mockery of justice considering the number of victims***. Given that he may very well die from the lashes he receives and the fact that I don't know the condition of jails in the Middle East, I'd prefer withhold judgment on the appropriateness (or not) of the punishment to the crime.

What I do want to make note of is that the man's crimes, or rather, his method for luring and trapping his victims is only possible in a society like Saudi Arabia's, where belief in and punishment for association with magic, is rife.

In western society, there are few people who believe in the effectiveness of love potions. At the very least, it would be lower than the number of Saudi Arabians. This means that the number of women, say, in Australia, who would have gone to see such a 'sorcerer' would have been lower.

Even were that not the case, the crucial difference is that no one in Australia who went to consult or talk to, or purchase potions from any so called sorcerer would have to be afraid of being arrested by the Mutawa'een (a.k.a. Religious Police). That is what made it possible for this 'sorcerer' to blackmail these women. The mere fact of filming these women coming to talk to him about magic potions was enough for this man to get leverage over them.

Add to this the fact that a woman who has been raped in Saudi Arabia, as the article says:
rape victims themselves are often the recipients of scorn and are sometimes themselves blamed
This second aspect of Saudi Arabian culture, namely their attitude towards women, is what allowed this man to trap and rape so many women before being caught. It was shame and fear of the law that made these women succumb to the 'sorcerer's blackmail and it was the same fear and shame that prevented them from reporting the fact that they had been raped.

The man who raped these women may have been arrested, but the environment that made any of this possible remains the real cause of their suffering and it has not changed. Until it does, it's the very society that these women live in that continues to betray them.


* Ranted.
** Keeping in mind that you can only ever pretend to be one, since they aren't real.
*** With even one victim being one too many.