Belief Beat

(Updated at 6:30 p.m. EST to clarify my last question.)

Amnesty International has issued an “urgent appeal” calling on Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah to stop the execution of a Lebanese TV personality sentenced to death for “sorcery.”

Ali Hussain Sibat, a 46-year-old Lebanese father of five, is facing execution in Medina on a so-called “sorcery” charge relating to his work as the presenter of a show on a Lebanese satellite television station called Sheherazade. On the programme ‘Ali Hussain Sibat gives advice and predictions about the future.

CNN reports that Sibat, a Muslim, was arrested by Saudi religious police (known as the Mutawa’een) and charged with sorcery while visiting the country in May 2008 to perform the Islamic religious pilgrimage known as Umrah. An NPR story from December notes that these charges are on the rise.

Makes you wonder how folks like J.K. Rowling, Miss Cleo, Criss Angel and David Blaine would fare, if they ever found themselves in Saudi Arabia, doesn’t it? Then again, as NYT columnist Maureen Dowd complained earlier this month, only Muslims are allowed in Islam’s holy cities of Mecca and Medina (though the latter is apparently loosening its restrictions on non-Muslims). Also, how do Saudi Arabian courts have this kind of power over someone from Lebanon, (inserted clarification here:) whose “crime” was committed in Lebanon?

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