When the severed head of a wolf wrapped in women's lingerie turned up near the city of Tabouk in northern Saudi Arabia this week, authorities knew they had another case of witchcraft on their hands, a capital offence in the ultra-conservative desert kingdom.A wolf in lingerie indicates sorcery? Sounds more like an Arab re-enactment of Little Red Riding Hood!
Agents of the country’s Anti-Witchcraft Unit were quickly dispatched and set about trying to break the spell that used the beast’s head.
Saudi Arabia takes witchcraft so seriously that it has banned The Harry Potter series by British writer J.K. Rowling, rife with tales of sorcery and magic. It set up the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in May 2009 and placed it under the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPV), Saudi Arabia's religious police.
"In accordance with our Islamic tradition we believe that magic really exists," Abdullah Jaber, a political cartoonist at the Saudi daily Al-Jazirah, told The Media Line. "The fact that an official body, subordinate to the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has a unit to combat sorcery proves that the government recognizes this, like Muslims worldwide."
The unit is charged with apprehending sorcerers and reversing the detrimental effects of their spells. On the CPV website, a hotline encourages citizens across the kingdom to report cases of sorcery to local officials for immediate treatment.
In the case of the wolf's head, the Anti-Witchcraft Unit in Tabouk was able to break the spell. The Saudi daily Okaz reported on Monday that the unknown family that had fallen victim to the spell had been "liberated from the jaws of the wolf.”
The Anti-Witchcraft Unit was created in order to educate the public about the danger of sorcerers and "combat manifestations of polytheism and reliance on other Gods," the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported.
The belief in sorcery is so widespread in Saudi Arabia, that it is even used as a defense in criminal court cases. Last October, a judge accused of receiving bribes in a real-estate project told a court in Madinah that he had been bewitched and is undergoing treatment by Quranic incantations, known as ruqiyah, a common remedy for the evil eye.
...Belief in sorcery is not necessarily more widespread in Saudi Arabia than in other Gulf countries, Wilcke added. On Monday, the Emirati daily Al-Khaeej reported that Dubai police had arrested an Arab African national on charges of fraud and sorcery, after he charged 15,000 Dirham ($4,000) from a woman whose husband had left her, promising to bring him back using magic.
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