On the occasion of America's Independence Day, the e-magazine, Muslim
WakeUp.Com has reproduced an essay I read on CBC Radio last week. In my
commentary I suggested that the barbaric act of beheadings should not be
portrayed as a trait of Arab culture or an Islamic method of justice, but
part of a time tested tool of terror used by Europe for hundreds of years
and tolerated by the American sponsors of Saudi Arabia for over 50 years.
"I need to remind them [people in the west] that the phrase, rolling of the
heads did not originate in Arabic, Persian, or Urdu. In addition, Henry the
Eighth was not an Arab King, and the Guillotine was not an Indian
Read and reflect.
July 04, 2004
The Terror of Beheadings: Who Is Responsible?
By Tarek Fatah
Muslim Wake Up!
When the British Army finally captured Delhi to crush the 1857 Indian War of
Independence, it was left with an urgent taskhow to strike terror in the
hearts of millions of Indians.
The British colonialists wanted to let the Indian population know that the
last of the Moghul Emperors, the symbol of Indian resistance, was their
captive and that further fighting was futile. However, more importantly, the
British Army wanted strike terror into the hearts of the Indian freedom
fighters, who were refusing to lay down their arms and were engaging in hit
and run tactics throughout the vast Indian subcontinent.
In the absence of newspapers, television, and taped video messagesthe
modern means of propaganda, the British engaged in public acts of terror to
scare their opponents. Captured Indian soldiers would be strapped to mouths
of canons and then blown to bits. However, these publicly staged barbaric
acts of terror failed to dampen the resistance. Fighting continued across
Frustrated, the British then did the unimaginable. It is said they beheaded
the two sons of the captive Indian Moghul Emperor and then presented these
severed heads to him on a silver platter covered by rich satin cloth. As if
this was not enough, they started public hangings and then strung the dead
Indians from trees that lined the roads approaching Delhi. The dead bodies
stayed hanging for weeks, terrorizing the population into submission, as
stories of British barbarity spread across India.
Today, the terror tactics used by the British and other European colonizers
to break the will of their captive populations are being used by a new group
of peoplethe Al Qaeda terrorists who have infiltrated the freedom fighters
trying to get rid of new occupations.
While the British in the 19th century blew up prisoners on canons and hung
dead bodies on public thoroughfares, Al Qaeda and its supporters are
beheading their captives and posting these executions on the Internet. The
despicable and barbaric act of beheading prisoners and hostages is not
simply an act of savagery, but a calculated attempt of terrorizing the
populations of the western countries that are conducting the so-called war
on terrorism. The tactics of Al Qaeda and other Islamic fanatics are not
new; they come borrowed from the past.
Ordinary people throughout the world are justifiably horrified at these acts
of barbarism. Many people in the west cannot comprehend how anyone could
execute innocent people in front of video cameras without flinching or
hesitating for a moment.
However, people in the west and specially the US should take into
consideration our own complicity in creating the monsters that kill Nick
Berg or Daniel Pearl.
In the 1970 and 1980s, I used to call Saudi Arabia my home. One of the
regular events that became an attraction for ordinary Saudis and guest
workers was the Friday ritual of public beheadings.
People would gather at what was referred to as head-chopper square to
witness the beheading of prisoners. Saudis and guest workers, including
Americans and Europeans, would collect on Friday after prayers to see this
horrifying spectacle. They would see the head of the man cut off in one
swift slash of the sword, and then walk away for a day of picnicking among
the sand dunes outside Riyadh.
For over 50 years, the Saudis have been publicly beheading people in
gruesome executions. All this time their American sponsors have looked the
other way, never once protesting these acts of cruel and inhuman punishments
Today Americans must ask their government, why were they silent for decades
when the cult of beheadings gained respectability and acceptability under
their active patronage.
The same Saudis and their American sponsors, who poured billions into
creating a worldwide cult of Wahhabism on whose foundations Al Qaeda was
built, are today witnessing their chickens coming home to roost.
Unfortunately, today many ordinary people in the West view these beheadings
as acts of Muslims and associate this barbarism with the cultures of the
Arab World and the East.
I need to remind them that the phrase, rolling of the heads did not
originate in Arabic, Persian, or Urdu. In addition, Henry the Eighth was not
an Arab King, and the Guillotine was not an Indian invention.
The fact of the matter is that beheadings were part of our common history
from Japan to the Americas for centuries. But while most of the Western
World, excluding the United States, has moved away from the death penalty,
the Muslim world in a bizarre relationship with America, joins it in
continuing to accept it as an acceptable for of punishment.
If Americans are outraged with the sight of beheadings in Iraq and Saudi
Arabia, they need to look deep into their own past when public lynching was
the tool employed to terrorize African slaves into submission; where the
death penalty still finds fertile soil despite the execution of innocent
Americans as a result of a racist criminal justice system; where their
government still considers the Saudi regime as an ally, despite the fact
people still go to head chopper square for a Friday outing.
Tarek Fatah is a founding member of the Muslim Canadian Congress and host of
the weekly Canadian TV show, The Muslim Chronicle. A version of this essay
also appeared as a commentary on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's
radio program, The Current. For a streamed audio version of the program,
click here [http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/2004/200406/20040630.html
commentary begins at 16:10].