Following the lashing of blogger Raif Badawi and leaked footage that showed the public execution of a woman accused of beating her daughter, Saudi Arabia’s harsh interpretation of sharia law and its use of capital punishment have come under international scrutiny.
For many, the Saudi justice system sounds not unlike that of the Islamic State, the extremist Islamist group which has struck fear in much of the Middle East.
This week, Middle East Eye, a Web site that focuses on news from the region and is frequently critical of Saudi Arabia, contrasted a set of legal punishments recently announced by the Islamic State with the corresponding punishments in Saudi Arabia.
While Saudi Arabia isn’t particularly forthcoming about its use of capital punishment (and Middle East Eye doesn’t cite its source) and accurate information from within the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate is hard to ascertain, information from news sources and human rights organizations suggest the chart is at least broadly accurate.
One key difference between the Islamic State and Saudi Arabia, of course, is that the latter is a key U.S. ally in the region – and a member of the U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State. Some experts argue that the fundamentalist brand of Islam practiced by both has theological links, however, and Riyadh’s recent crackdown has been interpreted as an act of appeasement for Saudi hard-liners.
Saudi Arabia’s own concern about the Islamic State is likely genuine (plans to build an enormous wall along its border with Iraq are a good sign of that), but for many Americans, the extremist group’s rise is also bringing with it a renewed skepticism about American allies in the region.