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Beheaded for sorcery
December 14, 2011 - Stephen Browne
On Monday in the province of al-Jawf, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a woman in her 60s named Amina bint Abdul Halim bin Salem Nasser was beheaded for the crime of "witchcraft and sorcery."
That's 79 executions in the Kingdom this year, according to Amnesty International, including another for witchcraft in the holy city of Medina.
I lived and worked in the Kingdom in 1998-99, and this does not surprise me in the least. I remember reading in an advice column in one of the English-language newspapers in the Kingdom a letter from someone convinced is neighbor had done him some wrong for other. He was contemplating going to a sorcerer to get a curse put on his neighbor. The advice columnist cautioned him that under no circumstances was he permitted to use black magic to settle disputes, but in no way questioned the reality or efficacy of black magic.
I heard things of breathtaking absurdity while living in the Kingdom. One opinion columnist claimed with a straight face that "the Jews want Medina back." (Medina was a Jewish city in the time of the Prophet.) I had students who said God would replace the oil under Arabia when it ran out.
Just a few years before I came to the training center there had been a riot in the parking lot in which some students died of knife wounds, resulting in others being beheaded. The riot was over an insult one student made about another student's clan.
And Saudi men, like a lot of Middle Easterners. are generally perfectly OK with the idea that if their wife, daughter, or sister is raped, or seen in the company of a man not a relative, or just gets uppity, it is their right and duty to murder her.
I bring this up because after living abroad for many years I have noticed a thing about my own countrymen.
Unless we have spent a fair amount of time in other cultures, we Americans expect other people's assumptions and motives to make sense in terms we can understand. That is to say, we tend to think of foreigners as Americans with funny accents.
Nope. Doesn't work that way at all. And it's not only wrong but dangerous to assume so.
For all our chatter about "diversity" these days, deep down inside we still expect people everywhere to be pretty much alike.
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