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Witchcraft ban on way

WITCHCRAFT and sorcery could soon be outlawed, following allegations that suspicious packages containing hair, nails and even blood are being shipped to Bahrain.

Parliament yesterday voted in favour of making such activities criminal offences.

A narrow vote saw the amendment to Bahrain's penal code approved, despite objections from a senior government official and some MPs.

It means anyone caught practising witchcraft and sorcery could face jail and a fine, which would be left up to a judge to decide.

The amendment has been drafted by the government based on a proposal from parliament, but Minister of State for Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Abdulaziz Al Fadhel said there was no clear definition of witchcraft or sorcery.

"Does this mean that magic tricks in the circus and hypnotism could be criminalised too?" he asked MPs during their weekly session yesterday.

"Can anyone here tell me what is considered witchcraft and what is not? I don't think so."

The amendment is meant to punish people who cheat unsuspecting members of the public by tricking them into handing over money.

However, Mr Al Fadhel said such acts were the equivalent of embezzlement or theft, which were already punishable by law.

"People who engage in witchcraft and sorcery are cheats and are stealing people's money or belongings by convincing them to do something that could harm themselves or others, but which might have no effect at all," he said.

Al Wefaq MP Mohammed Al Mizal agreed there was no need for the amendment, saying even the Quran stated witchcraft and sorcery were visual effects that cheat the eye.

"There are sorcerers who are good and bad in what they do, but they all work on cheating the eye to make people believe that what they do is magical," he said.

"Those people are not doing anything extraordinary, except robbing people of their hard-earned money - convincing them that through magic they can do whatever they want, but it is not."

Al Wefaq MP Sayed Abdulla Al A'ali agreed and questioned how such a law could be enforced.

"What verdict should the judge take when some female comes to court saying that she paid money for someone to help her achieve something through witchcraft and sorcery, but nothing happened?" he asked.

"Will the judge take the verdict as embezzlement or a failed act of witchcraft or sorcery?"

However, among those in favour of the move was Al Asala MP Ibrahim Busandal, who said postmen faced difficulty reporting suspicious packages to the police because witchcraft and sorcery were not considered illegal.

"The X-rays show that there are hair, nails and sometimes blood in the package, but they can't stop it because they have no power to do so," he said.

"This means there are witches and sorcerers waiting for those packages to do something that could harm those to whom it belongs.

"The Quran says they exist and everyone knows they do, so why are we opposing criminalising them if we know that there are people who would be affected by their witchcraft and sorcery?"

He was backed by parliament financial and economic committee vice-chairman Al Asala MP Abdulhaleem Murad, who said such practices were already outlawed in Syria and Oman.

"It means that those people exist, or else why would someone waste time coming up with a law criminalising them?" he asked.

The amendment will be now referred to the Shura Council for revision. alaali@gdn.com.bh



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