The Los Angeles Times’ Middle East-focused blog “Babylon & Beyond” has an excellent look at the current situation of Ali Sibat, a Lebanese citizen who was arrested and sentenced to death for the crime of “sorcery” in Saudi Arabia. They not only touch on the political manipulations inside Saudi Arabia that might be fueling this rush to judicial murder, a theme touched on in a previous report by NPR, but also focus on the Lebanese citizens who are outraged at this miscarriage of justice.
The Arabic writing on the banners reads:”Don’t kill.” Credit: Bilal Hussein / AP
“In Lebanon they have rallied behind Sabat, calling on politicians to take a stronger stance. On Thursday, protesters gathered in front of the Saudi embassy in Beirut where they reenacted a mock hanging to protest Sabat’s sentence. “[Saudis] come to our country and literally do whatever they want, thinking that Lebanon is theirs [thanks] to our dear politicians!!” one commenter wrote on a popular online political forum.”
In Lebanon the crime of “sorcery” is a misdemeanor, and punishable by, at worst, a couple months in jail. In addition, the report tells us that television psychic call-in shows, such as the one Sibat hosted, are hugely popular in Lebanon, and are broadcast across the Middle East. It was, in fact, Sibat’s television show that led the Mutaween (religious police) in Saudi Arabia to single out and seize him as he was returning from a pilgrimage.
For the moment there is a stay of execution, but there is no clue as to if it is only temporary, or if Sibat’s life will truly be spared. This show of force by conservative factions in Saudi Arabia, and the hesitancy of Lebanese politicians to directly challenge their powerful neighbor place Sibat in a precarious situation. As I pointed out the other day, Saudi Arabia brazenly grabbing pilgrims and sentencing them to death for “sorcery” or “witchcraft” endangers the lives of any who don’t toe the line of Sunni hard-liners, including the small community of modern Pagans and occultists living in Lebanon.