When in the wrong, blame it on devil!

Mareeg.com-A Saudi judge citing the influence of jinns to plead not guilty in an embezzlement case is yet another example of how some people seek to degrade their faith
By Tariq A. Al Maeena

Back in the 1970s, a highly popular weekly American television show called The Flip Wilson Show used to showcase the African-American star himself. Wilson played a host of characters in the show, none more absorbing than Geraldine, an elderly matron, who, when confronted with something she had done wrong, would screech out: “The devil made me do it.” The audience loved it and this particular phrase became so popular that it was quickly absorbed in America’s everyday parlance.

Now, it seems that a Saudi judge has been afflicted with the Geraldine defence. Ten days ago, a report said that this Saudi judge resorted to “the devil made me do it” phrase when confronted with evidence that he had embezzled more than 600 million Saudi riyals (Dh587.5 million) of public funds. During the investigations, the judge pleaded his innocence and in his defence said he was possessed by jinns devils and that he was seeking the services of some exorcist to rid him of this unnatural curse. He also claimed that he had no control over his actions and words.

The Saudi Bureau of Investigation and Prosecution in Madinah, after a considerable review of all the facts, came to the conclusion that the judge and 36 of his accomplices were “all found guilty of financial and administrative corruption”. Senior officials in the Madinah Court and a prominent lawyer were also arrested in connection with the case.

To many Saudis, the verdict came as a relief as they were wary that the judge could possibly get away with it, since he was being tried by his own peers. A local columnist, Abdul Aziz Al Simari, said: “This case has proved to be a big test for our public judiciary system because some religious scholars say that it is true that people who are possessed by jinns cannot control their actions. However, the bureau investigators decided to look into the case from a strictly legal viewpoint. Laws, they decided, do not take supernatural spirits into consideration

“Had the bureau ruled otherwise, this could have resulted in a catastrophe. The West has made giant strides in all scientific fields because they only believe in empirical research that is based on what is actually observed. There is no place for the supernatural and things that cannot be proved empirically. There was a time when Arabs made gigantic leaps in various scientific fields, but they could not maintain this leading position due to various reasons related to politics and sectarian struggles as well as the absence of reasoning.”

Before the reader goes any further, let us try to understand what the magnitude of this crooked judge’s crime was. You may think 600 million riyals in today’s financial terms is pittance, but if an individual — who would live up to the age of 80 — were to spend $5,000 (Dh18,390) on each and every day since the day he was born, he would still not be able to spend that entire amount! $5,000 a day could have gone to feed a lot of poor people. Instead, this greedy judge and his accomplices made off with it and when busted, put up a pitiful defence.

Going by the public response to the story, it was refreshing to note that no one was buying his argument. A reader wrote: “This statement by the judge is illogical. Can a murderer or a rapist say this? The judicial system of a nation has to be transparent and accountable. The proceedings of courts should be telecast live as is done in nations like Canada and the US. There should be a code of conduct for judges and judicial employees in public domain. What is needed is a law for litigants to save them from judicial bias and judicial corruption. Judges have to be made accountable for their judgements. The Sharia should be periodically reviewed for proper application.”

Another wrote: “Does the convicted judge really believe that society is so naive as to accept his bizarre claims? Or perhaps he believed that somebody equally corrupt or maybe jinns would come to his rescue! I applaud the Bureau of Investigations for their role in convicting the judge and sincerely hope that they follow suit with other officials who are embezzling money. But again, maybe those officials who are getting away with embezzlement have stronger, more powerful and more influential jinns on their sides!”

A third was even more blunt: “This scoundrel is insulting our religion to the maximum. He is degrading my faith to the lowest of low levels. He should be charged with theft — Yes, he is a thief and should be punished for blasphemy and put to death. He deserves nothing less.”

A well-known Hadeeth goes as follows: ‘Judges are of three types — two of whom will be in hell and one in paradise. A man who judges unjustly and knowingly, will be in hell. A judge who has no knowledge and destroys people’s rights, will be in hell. And finally, a judge who judges in accordance with the truth, will be in Paradise.’ (Narrated by Al Tirmidhi).

I am not a betting man, but I can surmise from the actions of this dishonest judge that he does not fall in the latter group.

Tariq A. Al Maeena is a Saudi socio-political commentator. He lives in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@talmaeena