|Blue Wizard Is About To Die!
For some people, alternative medicine means acupuncture, for others it’s macrobiotics. But now, in Saudi Arabia, Islamic holy scripture is now among a patient’s legally sanctioned therapeutic options.
This week, the government awarded a license to a clinic treating the ill with Koranic incantations. The permit for The Center for Treatment through Ruqiya (Incantation) in the coastal city of Jedda was given by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, which also oversees the center’s activities.
Until now, regulations have been designed to eliminate the practice of sorcery, which is illegal in Saudi Arabia and punishable by death. Two men were sentenced to death last October following charges of practicing witchcraft in the kingdom. But Saudi practitioners insisted that ruqiya should not be confused with sorcery.
Al-Hashimi told A-Sharq Al-Awsat that half of all diseases are treatable by using the Koran because they are “Satanic afflictions” that disappear following prolonged verse incantation. Al-Hashimi added that 80% of cancer cases in the kingdom are caused by the evil eye, which is treatable by the Koran as well.
Price regulation was also introduced by the government. According to Al-Hashimi, the price of the first consultation is 100 Saudi Riyals ($27), with treatments for “difficult cases” climbing to as much as 600 Saudi Riyals ($160).
Fawzia Al-Bakr, an education professor at King Saud University in Riyadh, said charlatanism and sanitary concerns drove the government to regulate a practice endorsed by the religious establishment but pooh-poohed by most Saudis.
“This practice is often carried out in private homes, with the verses being read over water or oil,” Al-Bakr told The Media Line. “But there have been cases of misuse — health problems resulting from the reuse of water glasses, and price gouging.”
Al-Bakr said Saudi liberals have written about the phenomenon with manifest sarcasm.
Medical specialists in the kingdom were suspicious of ruqiya as well.
“Eighty percent of women with mental illness visit ruqyia therapists, avoiding the fact they are mentally ill and believing they were afflicted by sorcery or the evil eye,” Muhammad Al-Falaqi, an expert in Islamic law (sharia) and a researcher in psychology, told the on-line news daily Ilaf. “Many of these therapists ignore the fact that mental illness is an organic disease that requires real treatment in addition to Koran incantation.”
Samira Al-Ghamidi of the mental health hospital in Jedda stressed the need for government supervision over ruqiya, mainly from the Ministry of Health.
Sexual harassment was also a grave concern of government, since most of the patients of ruqiya are women and the therapists must be men.
“Women tend to believe is ritual practices more than men in Saudi Arabia,” Al-Bakr said. “Women are generally more religious than men.”
Al-Bakr explained that when girls’ education was introduced in Saudi Arabia in 1960, it was handed over to the authority of the kingdom’s clerics, whereas males are educated under the more liberal Ministry of Education. Only two years ago a unified curriculum for male and female students was introduced by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. A half century of overly religious education explained female tendency towards spirituality, Al-Bakr said.
“I don’t think many clinics like this will open,” she added. “The government isn’t encouraging it.”
What lies behind this sentence appears to be the nagging fear in the clerics that, beneath the solid foundations of Islam, there still exists in the region widespread superstitions which pre-date their faith.
In Europe, Christianity superimposed various beliefs on top of existing cultural norms and Europeans still engage in practices which are against the teaching of the Church. They did so even when the Church had a much tighter grip on society. It is no co-incidence that Christmas is celebrated in the deep midwinter and Easter in the spring. After all those months of cold and darkness the Europeans needed a reason to celebrate and the Christians were smart enough to keep the party, but give it a different name. The dates for the major Christian festivals are more to do with pagan beliefs than historical accuracy about the birth and death of Jesus. In a similar manner millions of Muslims cling on to pre Islamic beliefs including fortune telling and horsoscopes.
Thus Mr Sibat, perhaps unwittingly, offered a challenge to the very basis of Saudi Arabia and therefore it appears he must be killed.
Amnesty International (of which this writer is a member) has urged the Lebanese government to intervene, arguing that Mr Sibat ‘appears to have been convicted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression,”
That is true if you are in the 21st century, but false if you still believe in witchcraft and believe it offers a threat to a power structure which places you at the top. The court decision is both obvious and astonishing. Obvious for the reasons stated, astonishing in that a Lebanese man can be killed by the Saudi state for hosting a Lebanese TV show.
The clerics would like to kill satellite television, they are settling, this time, for killing someone for appearing on