It’s a terrible thing that happened to the Korean translator, Kim Sun-il, this week and to Americans Paul Johnson and Nicholas Berg in previous weeks, but the repeated characterization of these beheadings but not those committed by, for example, the Saudi government, as “barbaric” really underscores how far from understanding the situation on the ground in the Middle East Americans are.
The Saudi government executes convicted murderers by decapitating them. Is that barbaric? I think so, but a needle that snuffs a life is no less barbarous if you ask me. Why? Because the death penalty is an irrevocable sentence that is applied accidentally to the innocent far more often than anyone believes.
The method of execution in Saudi Arabia and used by terrorists in Iraq and Saudi Arabia is a reflection of the culture of the region, and if one beheading is barbarous any other beheading must be, as well. In Saudi Arabia, where beheadings are performed publicly, 79 people were executed in 2001, 13 more than the United States, despite the fact that Saudi has about 1/9th the population.
The United States should be putting pressure on the Saudis to get their criminal justice system, which severs hands from thieves, as well, out of the Middle Ages. By doing so, by setting a higher standard, the Saudi government would place shame on the terrorists in the Arab world when they committed such acts.
As it stands, only the reasons for these murders are barbarous. The method of execution should be isolated by a civilized world in order to completely separate Arab, Islamic and all other cultures from the acts of terrorists, so that citizens of all countries can deplore them wholeheartedly, which is impossible when those citizens can see the same act committed by their governments in a public square.
When Americans decry decapitation as “barbaric,” as though that makes these murders worse, they fail to acknowledge that beheading is the norm in the region and betrays the people of the Middle East to those who would keep them in feudal subservience.