Saudi Arabia Defends Public Beheadings After ISIS Comparisons

While ISIS militants have made headlines for their brutal public executions of civilians, key Western ally Saudi Arabia has continued and even expanded its own policy of public beheadings with far less scrutiny. Despite protests Monday from a top Saudi official about comparisons between the Saudi government and ISIS, Saudi Arabia’s system of crime and punishment is remarkably similar to that of the Islamist organization it has denounced, experts said.

Both ISIS and Saudi Arabia’s absolute monarchy rely on the same ideology and system of religious interpretation in their approach to punishment, said Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi expert and the director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs in Washington, D.C. “The Saudi judicial process, if we can call it that, is the same as ISIS’,” he said. Unlike every other Muslim country, Saudi Arabia refuses to codify its laws, which “gives the judge, or the government here because they are one and the same, leeway to decide whatever punishment they want.”