Friday, April 9, 2010

Witch Hunting Revived

Most people would think that the world had seen its last witch hunt in 1693 when the Salem witch trials came to an end in colonial Massachusetts. These people would be sadly be wrong. Not only are accusations of witchcraft rife in countries in Africa, like Nigeria*, where levels of education are (obviously) very low, there are also accusations of witchcraft and sorcery in Saudi Arabia.

Of course, you have to believe in witches or sorcerers before you can start accusing people of being one.** Not only does the Saudi Arabian government believe in witches and sorcerers, they have their own religious police.
El Khansa told CNN her client was arrested by Saudi Arabia's religious police (known as the Mutawa'een) and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008.
Sibat, is the former host of a television show "Sheherazade" where he predicted the future and gave advice to his viewers. In any sane society, these come in two categories:

1. He is really able to tell the future. He consistently predicts the outcome of events in double-blind trials. In this case, he makes millions on the stockmarket or becomes a government advisor or works with scientists to determine how his powers work.

2. He's making it up, or thinks he has the power to predict the future, but in fact does not. He is not able to successfully pass double-blind trials testing his ability. In this case, no one cares about him.

Note that there has never been a reported case of a true psychic. Case 1 has never happened, to the world's knowledge.

The Saudi Government is not interested, it seems, in proving whether or not he really is able to predict the future, they just think that he must have powers, since he said so on TV. And we all know everything on TV is true.

They don't even seem interested in proving that he has harmed anyone. The mere fact that he 'has' these powers is enough to condemn Sabit, according to religious law. A law left over from a time where everyone thought magic was real. A time everyone else has outgrown and moved on from.

Of course it is the countries still steeped in religion, whether it be Nigeria and Christianity or Saudi Arabia and Islam, that believe in witches and sorcerers. They have to. After all, what are the prophets and Gods but wielders of magic? To disbelieve in the existence of magic completely is to disbelieve their Gods.


* Other examples are here.
** You also have to believe they are necessarily evil.


  1. My take on this...

    Psychic: "But, your Honour, I did not expect this!"

    Judge: "That is why you are going to be executed!"

  2. Yep. :)

    Actually, that makes me think. Astronomers in the Aztec empire used to be killed if they weren't able to predict an eclipse. Or is that China? (Or Babylon?). In any case, you're more right than you think and I have revealed myself to be a bit of a history nut.

    Excuse me while I run to use the Google machine.