Saudi Arabia religious police undergo anti-witchcraft course

File: In this Thursday, April 1, 2010 file photo, activists from a civil organization reenact an execution scene in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, as they protest a possible beheading of a Lebanese man accused of witchcraft in Saudi Arabia. (AP/Bilal Hussein, File)

Recruits get theoretical and practical training in countering magic and black arts punishable by death

In a move worthy of a Harry Potter movie, recruits in an anti-witchcraft unit within Saudi Arabia’s powerful religious police have begun a new training course on theoretical and practical aspects of countering sorcery and the black arts, the practice of which is punishable by death.

They recently completed a five-day course on combating magic at the headquarters of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice in the Gulf Kingdom’s capital, Riyadh, according to the Emirates 24/7 news site.

The course included instruction on how to identify magicians and destroy black art works.

Three years ago, the Atlantic magazine quoted Sheikh Adel Faqih, a director of the anti-witchcraft division, as providing a “vague and innocuous” reply when asked what kind of information was needed to arrest a sorcery suspect.

The unit had formed nine bureaus for fighting witchcraft by 2011, and in 2012 alone charged 215 magicians, the report said.

The Saudi regime enforces a strict form of Islam based on a literal interpretation of the Quran that vehemently opposes folk ritual.

The country carried out at least 157 executions in 2015, withbeheadings reaching their highest level in the kingdom there in two decades, according to several advocacy groups that monitor the death penalty worldwide.

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