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The Terror of Beheadings: Who Is Responsible?

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  • Tarek Fatah
    Dear friends, 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 4, 2004
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      Dear friends,

      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.

      Tarek Fatah
      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 task—how 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 messages—the
      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
      the sub-continent

      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 people—the 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 The CBC
      commentary begins at 16:10].
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