Babylon & Beyond

Observations from Iraq, Iran,
Israel, the Arab world and beyond

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SAUDI ARABIA: A barber faces beheading

May 29, 2008 |  9:03 am

Saudi_beheading_2 It’s a profanity uttered countless times a day around the globe, but a barber in Saudi Arabia faces beheading for the crime of using God’s name in vain. Sabri Bogday, a Turk who cuts hair in the Saudi port city of Jeddah, is awaiting appeal on his sentence.

Press reports say Bogday cursed during an argument with a neighbor, who later complained to police. This nation is ruled by a strict Wahabbi brand of Islamic justice that doles out lashings and public beheadings for crimes including murder, rape and heresy.

Bogday has been in jail for 13 months. Turkish President Abdullah Gul has asked Saudi King Abdullah to spare the barber. But the Arab News reported there could be complications hinging on arcane interpretations of religious law by fundamentalist judges.

The newspaper quoted a lawyer as saying: “Some judges consider it heresy and infidelity, and say that the accused cannot repent and so faces the death penalty. Others consider the statement to be disbelief, thus allow the accused to retract what he has said and repent and then set him free. ... Sentences in these cases are limited and considered rare, because the judgment is not based on something that is written.”

—Jeffrey Fleishman in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

Photo: A beheading in Saudi Arabia. Source: