In the western world the belief in witchcraft and black and white magic is usually considered an anachronistic superstition of the dark ages. But in Saudi Arabia the belief in witchcraft and magic is not only fully alive but every year people are executed on the charge of witchcraft. It is usually foreigners or illiterate poor people who are accused and executed for witchcraft, but just as in the dark ages of Europe, those who (claim to) be able to practice magic but perform for the rich and powerful are left in peace . Practises like fortune telling and astrology are considered un-Islamic.
For witchcraft being proven, and a persons life to be forfeit, such items as glass bottles with fluids, charms, and owning a book about witchcraft are enough. Other evidence arrayed against witchcraft suspects typically revolves around statements from accusers and suspicious personal belongings that suggest the supernatural, in a country where superstition is still widespread.
In Saudi Arabia in modern times real witch hunts still happen. The religious police have an Anti witchcraft unit and sorcery hotline. There is no legal definition for ”witchcraft” or which body of evidence would prove it.
The judges in Saudi Arabia have a lot of leeway in interpreting sharia and there are no codified laws.
Amnesty international claims these judges use witchcraft charges to arbitrarily ”punish people, generally after unfair trials, for exercising their right to freedom of speech or religion.”
There’s evidence that the cases may involve coerced confessions and miscarriages of justice as well. Human Rights Watch chronicles the plight of an illiterate Saudi woman named Fawza Falih who was beaten, forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read, tried without a lawyer, and sentenced to death for ”witchcraft, recourse to jinn, and slaughter” of animals after a man accused Falih of rendering him impotent and authorities found a “foul-smelling substance,” a white robe with money inside it, and another robe hanging from a tree in or near her home.
A Lebanese television personality on a religious pilgrimage to Medina, for making psychic predictions on a Lebanon-based satellite channel. Sabat was arrested by the Saudi religious police after they recognized him from television and pressured him to confess to violating Islam if he hoped to return to Lebanon. His confession landed him a beheading instead.
The only evidence presented in court was reportedly the claim he appeared regularly on Lebanese satellite issuing general advice on life and making predictions about the future.
After intense international pressure the Saudi Supreme Court eventually freed Sabat after ruling that his actions hadn’t harmed anyone.
Especially foreign maids are considered to practice sorcery. From the Saudi Gazette:
The Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (the Hai’a) has said it has broken a spell that a housemaid in Taif put on the five daughters of the elderly man she was employed to look after.
Muhammad Fari’, head of the Hai’a’s Shihar District branch in Taif, said the maid cast a spell on the women, who live with their husbands and children in other parts of the country, to stop them visiting and increasing her workload.
“They would visit with husbands and children during the holidays and it would appear that their numerous demands during those visits led to her putting the spell on them to stop them visiting their father,” Fari’ said. “The Hai’a in Shihar stepped in to break the spell and return affairs to their normal course.”
Fari’ said that foreigners, and particularly women, were responsible for acts of magic in Saudi Arabia.
“These practices are foreign to the Saudi society,” he said.