A Closer Look at Saudi Arabia’s Barbaric Punishments
The Islamic State and Saudi Arabia both have one thing in common: they are very public and very brutal about punishing crimes. In fact, punishments for crimes in both countries are nearly identical, with death penalties handed frequently and carried out in public executions. Saudi Arabia has faced strong international pressure to revise its harsh sentences, in particular when a blogger charged with insulting Islam was sentenced to one thousand lashes.
There is an enormous difference in how both of these parties publicize their harsh sentencing laws. While the IS lets everyone know the kinds of brutal punishments that they carry out, Saudi Arabia works constantly to hide any evidence of these brutal actions. An example recently that best shows the difference between both parties is the appearance of a video showing a woman being publicly executed in Saudi Arabia. After the video went viral, the policeman that filmed it was arrested, charged with violating Saudi Arabia’s cybercrime law. In the case of the IS, it is the militants themselves who constantly upload videos of their executions to the Web, particularly using social media to gain new recruits. If anything, the case of Saudi Arabia is worse, since the active concealment of these activities shows an inexcusable degree of hypocrisy, while the IS revels in these acts.
It is important to note that Saudi Arabia rarely carries out deaths by stoning for adultery or death penalties for blasphemy (although one could argue that just one of these executions is one too many.) The fact is that is that both parties share Wahhabi Islamic ideology, a view of scripture that is incredibly conservative and ahistorical. It is important to note that, despite sharing this ideology, both parties are enemies. The IS, in particular, accuses the Saudi monarchy of corruption and has expressed hate for the Saudi government. Essentially, the Saudi state has taken advantage of Wahhabi ideology to ensure that the al-Saud monarchy remains in power, using it as an instrument of repression. After all, it is well known that these harsh punishments operate on a sliding scale, in which the highest echelons of society are hardly affected. Saudi executions disproportionately target minorities, women, and the disenfranchised, while those in power can get away with a slap of the wrist in most cases.
Historians have expressed deep concern about the fact that these punishments are being doled out without a regard for history or context. Sharia has a very high bar when it comes to the evidence required to convict people of hadd crimes. For example, a conviction on adultery requires three confessions from the accused or the testimony of four male or eight female witnesses. These Medieval doctrines were created to be very difficult to convict and punishment tended to be lenient. These kinds of draconian punishments were originally designed to serve as a deterrent. Modern technology makes it much easier than ever before to convict of a crime.