Friday, April 02, 2010

The Peril of Ali Sabat

A Lebanese man who works as a television psychic has receieved a reprieve today, but it may be short lived... and if it is, so will he.

Ali Sabat was making the pilgramage to Mecca required of all Muslims who can afford it when he was arrested by the Saudi Arabian religious police and eventually sentenced to death by beheading. For witchcraft.

Yes, you heard that right. One of the richest nations on earth, with full availability of all modern technology and in most ways very much a part of the twenty-first century, is preparing to execute a citizen of another sovereign nation for witchcraft.

Ali's execution was scheduled for today, but it was announced it would not be taking place. However, it was not announced that it had been canceled. Just that it wouldn't be today.

If Ali Sabat were an American rather than Lebanese, this would be front page news. Instead, I only stumbled upon it. It sickens and saddens me. Sure, these laws are not new and it is most certainly nothing unique for the Saudi's to be applying them. And the argument can be made that Mr. Sabat should have been well aware that he was taking a risk.

Of course, Mr. Sabat would likely say that he had no choice, that his faith requires him to make this pilgrimage. Ironically, the same faith his executioners will use to explain why they had no choice but to behead him.

But Mr. Sabat is a foreign citizen on a visit. As far as I know, he has not broken any of these barbaric laws while on Saudi soil. We could as easily wait until his executioners visit New York and arrest them for murder. After all, beheading a man for witchcraft is illegal in the United States, right?

How much do you think the Saudi's would squawk if we did that? What if we arrested his judge as an accessory?

The simple plain truth is that they did it because they can. If he had been a Briton, or a Canadian or yes, an American, I doubt he would have been arrested at all. Because those countries can protect their citizens. Lebanon can't.

In other words, the Saudi's aren't only being barbaric, they are being sadistic bullies. Which throws their defense (which they actually haven't felt a need to make, since their victim is not from the west) into the realm of excuse and nothing more. After all, if they were really doing a holy duty, imposed upon them by their God and as unavoidable as Mr. Sabat's need to make a pilgrimage, such mundane considerations should be regrettable but unimportant in the long run.

It is exactly such things as this that have long made me a supporter of Amnesty International.