Who They Hate
January 9, 2002
By Laura Flanders
Months ago, the question on many media lips was, "Why do they hate
us?" Why did the Islamic world seem to be so hostile to the United
States? After three months of war, ABC's Nightline revisited the topic Tuesday
night. "Do they still hate us?" What a turnaround it would be if
Koppel, et al, would take "us" out of the picture. Hostility to the
United States is not the only kind of hate worth talking about.
Three Saudi Arabians were beheaded New Year's Day. The story got precisely
no U.S. media attention, as far as a Nexis-Lexis database search could reveal.
Ali bin Hatan bin Saad, Muhammad bin Suleiman bin Muhammad, and Muhammed bin
Khalil bin Abdullah were executed for "committing acts of sodomy."
The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Interior issued a statement announcing that the
three were convicted of homosexual acts. The trial proceedings were secret.
By way of explanation, the Associated Pres, which ran a five-line account
on its wire the next day, offered the following: "Saudi Arabia follows a
strict interpretation of Islam and also imposes the death penalty for murder,
rape, drug trafficking and armed robbery." (This stock sentence appears
in all AP reports on Saudi executions.) The public executions in the resort
city of Abha were only the latest in a frightening pattern of human rights
violations and abuses in Saudi Arabia under the country's cleric-run legal
Predictably, those who are "different" are the most frequent
victims. The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission has
documented a pattern of violence against persons "stigmatized for their
consensual sexual conduct or gender identity."
And the victims aren't only queers. In addition to a number of amputations
and floggings, 123 people were executed in Saudi Arabia in 2000, according to
Amnesty International. Of the 123 killed, most of them -- 71 -- were foreign
workers from India, Pakistan, Nigeria, the Philippines, Yemen, Sudan, Iraq . .
. Which is to say, 58 percent of the executed were foreigners, a group which
constitutes 25 percent of Saudi Arabia's population.
Why do Saudi clerics hate queers and foreigners and who knows who else?
Alone in the United States, the good folks at The Gully have solid analysis of
the New Year's Day's events: "Like the Christians thrown to the lions by
the fading Romans, the deaths of Ali bin Hatan bin Saad, Muhammad bin Suleiman
bin Muhammad and Muhammad bin Khalil bin Abdullah were not about religion, but
about politics. About power. And the House of Saud's increasingly tenuous
grasp on it."
There's a deepening financial crisis in Saudi Arabia and an increasingly
embarrassing political collapse. The House of Saud's hold on the House of Bush
is firm as ever, but domestically, the Saudi royals' grasp on power is fading
A state in crisis is a scary place for potential scapegoats. It has ever
been thus. Sadly, the victims of bigotry know the history most
"mainstreamers" forget: "The social distraction of
queer-baiting has been used to great effect historically," writes The
Gully's Kelly Cogswell, "from Franco's Spain and Castro's Cuba, to more
recently, Egypt and Zimbabwe, and the Christian Right's U.S. Who cares about
poverty or political instability, when you can incarcerate a queer, firebomb a
gay bar, or electroshock a lesbian?"
Cogswell could have added Hitler's Germany, to the list. There's no better
way to assert supremacy than war against Jews, or queers, or foreigners --
pick your "other" of choice.
Does the corruption that is the crumbling, U.S.-supported Saudi government
explain why "they" hate "us" or the "United
States" or, most broadly, "the West?" Not entirely, of course.
As Ted Koppel's guests on Nightline said recently, unless the United States
looks at the root causes of terrorism -- economic exploitation, U.S. arrogance
and hypocrisy, the treatment of the Palestinians, the hegemony of U.S. force
-- the future looks very bleak.
Some have woken lately to the realization that women were the
"canaries in the coalmine" of Taliban repression. If we'd paid more
attention before, many have said, the "evil-doers" of September 11
might not have found such a cozy place to roost.
A more helpful way of looking at it would be to reconsider our approach to
human rights. Human rights are indivisible. It's like justice -- the denial of
rights to one group is a violation of the rights of all. States in crisis
scapegoat; that's a good way to tell what's going down.
But American policy makers don't care about the queers, the women, the
economically vulnerable foreigners. They -- and for the most part, we -- don't
care until it's far too late. World War II and Pastor Martin Niemoller
produced a poem we'd do well to teach again. Remember? It starts, "First
they came for the Communists and I did nothing because I was not a
For a long time, the United States has allied itself to rulers who come for
Communists, for Jews, for minorities, for queers, for intellectuals, for the
outspoken and critical . . . It's not any religion's fault if "they"
now come for "us."
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