The Vagaries of Moral Progress (6): Capital Punishment in Saudi Arabia

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capital punishment / vagaries of moral progress
capital punishment in Saudi Arabia

A Saudi executioner prepares to behead a convicted drug dealer in Jeddah in this 1985 image. Photograph: Rex Features


In Saudi Arabia they use a strictly etymological interpretation of the phrase “capital punishment”. However, there’s now a proposal to abandon beheadings and to look for alternatives:

Last week, the Saudi daily Al-Youm reported that Saudi Arabia is considering transitioning away from the state’s institutionalized method of executing convicts: beheading by sword. Beheading — the approach to carrying out death sentences in the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century — has long been practiced in the kingdom in observance of its strict interpretation of Islamic law, which seeks to mimic practices at the time of Mohammed. But a committee of Saudi government officials recently ruled that execution by firing squad would also be permissible under the national brand of sharia.

“This solution seems practical, especially in light of shortages of official swordsmen,” the committee explained in a statement quoted by the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram. The committee also complained that official swordsmen have been known to show up late to executions. (source)

Letting convicts wait for their execution? Standard practice in other countries, and according to some an extra punishment that is richly deserved.

Does this mean those few remaining swordsmen will be out of a job soon? It turns out the Saudi newspaper Okaz asked one of them: Mecca-based executioner Mohammad Saad al-Biishi. He says he’s not concerned, citing the fact that he’s already received firearms training. In the meantime, he’ll keep on with the beheadings. (source)

More on capital punishment in Saudi Arabia is here. More posts in this series are here.

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