Gulf: Clampdown on sorcerers and witchcraft

More objects seized, S. Arabia creates police unit

11 June, 17:17

(ANSAmed) - DUBAI, JUNE 11 - In the shadow of the enormous skyscrapers in Dubai, symbols of modernity and innovation, old superstitions and black magic are still popular in the Emirate's intricate multicultural social web. At least according to the amount of ''material for witchcraft'' impounded by the border police: 92 cases in one year. Witchcraft is punishable with imprisonment in the United Arab Emirates, but in other Gulf states, like Saudi Arabia, culprits can even get the death penalty. Yesterday two Asian men were arrested at the airport when some bizarre and illegal objects were found in their luggage: texts containing magic spells and rituals, talismans, animal hides and bones, containers holding blood and other liquids, strings and strange rings: 1200 objects, classifiable in 28 categories, in total. ''Magic and witchcraft are dangerous practices that jeopardise society, manipulating the minds of people with problems,'' commented Ali Al Maghawi, director of customs operations, underlining that people's credulity is often used for fraud.

Women are often the easiest victims according to statistics. Islam explicitly forbids ''learning, teaching and practicing magic'' as well as consulting magicians, fortune-tellers, wizards and the likes because they go against the will of Allah, the only one to decide on the destiny of each individual, the Gran Mufti for Islamic Affairs, Ali Ahmad Masha'al, explains in newspaper Gulf News.

Saudi Arabia carried out two death sentence for witchcraft in 2011: a man from Sudan and an Arab woman were beheaded in a period of a few months. The year before, a Lebanese sorcerer, well-known from television, was arrested when entering the oil state. He was brought to trial and sentenced to death. The sentence was not carried out in the end because of strong international pressure. Despite the arrests and the severe penalties, many people are still seduced by magic. In March Saudi Arabia counted more than 580 cases, causing the country to form a special police team to fight ''all sorcerers and charlatans'' in the Kingdom, investing half a million euros and launching a large-scale national campaign. (ANSAmed).

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