Warehouse C
Religious Witchhunts?
Page 2
Page 3

Lessons To Be Learned From Saudi “Witch” Trial


By James Donahue


Human Rights Watch and several other groups, many of them connected via the World Wide Web, are collectively appealing to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah this winter in an effort to head off the execution of an illiterate Saudi woman for practicing witchcraft.


Reports from the Human Rights Watch and websites representing Wiccans, Druids and other pagan organizations from around the world say Fawza Falih has been sentenced to public beheading after confessing to involvement in supernatural occurrences that included “bewitching” a man and making him impotent.


The coalition seeking Falih’s pardon and release also includes Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, Native Americans, Buddhists and people of various other spiritual traditions. Their letter is to be delivered to the Saudi ambassadors to the United Nations and the United States.


Falih recanted her confession which she said she made under duress and appealed her case. In 2006 an appellate court ruled that she could not be executed because she had recanted. But a lower court, guided by the strict interpretation of Wahhabi Islam, reinstated the death penalty.


Joe Stork, a Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, noted that because of her illiteracy, Falih did not understand the document she was forced by authorities to fingerprint. Now she is languishing in prison, awaiting an execution for a crime she not only did not commit, but for which there is no apparent written law against.


“The fact that Saudi judges still conduct trials for unprovable crimes like witchcraft underscores their inability to carry out objective criminal investigations,” Stark said.


He said the judges who tried Falih in the town of Quraiyat never gave her the opportunity to prove her innocence to “absurd charges that have no basis in law.” He noted the case underscores failures in Saudi Arabia’s Islamic legal system where lawyers are not always present, sentences are often handed down on the whim of judges, and the most frequent victims are women.


Witchcraft is an offense against Islam in that kingdom, even if it is not defined as a crime by law.


In Falih’s case, the court ruling was based on her confession, which she later denied, and the statements of witnesses who said she had “bewitched” them.


The case is raising international alarm in a contemporary time when most people are more tolerant and understanding of the practice of people who utilize the natural powers of the earth to make change, or refuse to believe in it altogether.


That a radical fundamental religious group in Saudi Arabia should so influence a court to bring down a death sentence on a woman accused of such an innocuous practice should raise red flags for everyone living in countries where radical belief systems influence government and the courts. This should be especially troublesome for people in the United States, where radical Christian fundamentalists have gained a foothold in the door to the White House, and are striving to maintain this influence.


If we foolishly elect another hard-line Christian simple-minded president like George Bush this fall, it is possible that our aging court system will be overpowered by judges who will not only bring back the ban on abortions, but launch a witch hunt far more ruthless than anything that happened in Salem 200 years ago.


Those who openly practice the use of psychic powers, remote viewing, astrology, palmistry, psycho kinesis, healing, tarot reading, and other types of right-brain functioning could quickly be branded, like Falih, as “practicing witches.” Their fate could either be prison or execution in the public square.