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Sunday, August 09, 2009

Saudi Vice, episode 29: The Magic Kingdom


A few times a week, our heroes at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice arrest practitioners of a truly horrible crime: magic.

Magic, of course, is not allowed under Shari'a law. What is strange though is how many Saudi Muslims seem to believe in magic anyway.

Here are some articles from just the past couple of weeks in the Saudi Gazette:
An Arab-African male accused of “conning clients” with his claims to magic powers enabling him to “break spells, win over hearts, and divide couples” [was arrested by] the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a) in Makkah Tuesday.

The Makkah Hai’a spokesman said that the detained man managed to obtain “large sums of money” from “women and innocent people” through his claims to have superhuman powers. The spokesman thanked the public for their help in detaining the man and their “understanding of the role of the men of the Hai’a in containing unwanted phenomena”.
Here was a sting to catch the criminal in the act:
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a) in Jeddah arrested an African man and handed him over to police in the Al-Jami’a district of the city Sunday on accusations of practicing magic. A Hai’a official was sent to the man, who claimed to be able to break spells, posing as a client seeking a solution to a marital problem in order to expose his activities. Hai’a spokesman Salim Al-Sarawani said the magic practitioner extracted prayer beads from his pocket and muttered unintelligible phrases before asking his client for his name, the name of his wife, and 1,000 riyals. He then promised that the issue would come to an end within three days. As the fees for his services were being handed over Hai’a officials made the arrest and transferred the man to police authorities.
The vigilance against magic extends to the regular police, who call the Muttawa for backup:
Police patrols attending the scene of a minor accident in the north of Qassim Saturday called in the Hai’a after finding one of the driver’s cases to be “full of talismans and items used in acts of magic.” Officials conducted a search after noticing the driver’s “nervous behavior” and took the man to Qasiba’ Police Station where the Hai’a were summoned to “take a look at the contents of the case and check if they were used for practicing magic.”
The magicians manage to penetrate the highest levels of Saudi society:
The Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (Hai’a) in Jeddah detained Monday an African man charged with conducting acts of black magic and sorcery on over 50 persons, among them businessmen, local officials and scholars. A Hai’a raid uncovered a long list of names, among them women, of persons who he would contact exclusively via mobile telephone text messages in order to maintain secrecy. Also found were numerous books on magic arts and some strange inscriptions. The man was found upon investigation to have been involved in a similar case two years previously.
Plus one more incident that I already posted about.

We are truly fortunate that the Muttawa is vigilant in eradicating the scourge of magic from the Kingdom. But it is an uphill battle...it appears that the number of sorcerers are increasing.

But that couldn't be because these arrests give the magicians and their acts more legitimacy in the eyes of the average Saudi Muslim, and therefore increase the number of potential customers. No, that couldn't be the case.