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The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

The student news site of Guilford College

The Guilfordian

Middle Easterners elevate Saddam to martyr status

After Saddam Hussein’s execution on Dec. 30, 2006, the U.S.-dubbed “terrorist” is being glorified as a martyr by Arabs and Muslims around the world. Many in the Western world assume that those who consider Saddam a martyr blindly support him and his legacy. However, those who comprehend the Arabic and Muslim mentalities realize that the roots of this issue go much deeper than unconditional support for the politics of Hussein.

Professor of Religious Studies and Peace and Conflict Studies Shelini Harris believes that it’s not about liking Saddam. “Ultimately it’s even not about Saddam,” Harris said. “All of that is irrelevant. It’s about the symbolism.”

“To many Arabs, Saddam represented a staunch opposition to U.S. aggression in the area,” said campus ministry coordinator, Max Carter. “He was turned into a martyr by those who are most extreme in their views and are against U.S. aggression. They are convinced that (the execution) is a U.S. driven decision.”

Political Science professor Robert Duncan believes that Saddam Hussein should have been deposed a long time ago, yet he is not surprised that many consider him a martyr. “This would be true anywhere in the world,” Duncan said. “Many got great advancements (during Hussein’s regime) like the Sunnis and the Baaths, so it is expected that they glorify him.”

“In the eyes of the Americans, Saddam is a terrorist,” said Palestinian sophomore Osama Sabbah, “but in the eyes of the Arabs he is a freedom fighter because he refused to kneel down to the United States.”

Sabbah points out that the fact that Hussein was a dictator is not at all seen as evil to many Arabs, because democracy is not a part of their culture or their mentality. “The Iraqis’ culture, religion, and mentality need a dictator,” Sabbah said.

“Democracy takes time and it only blooms under certain conditions,” said Duncan, “and these conditions don’t exist in the Middle East.”

“The fact that Saddam was a dictator does not bother many in the Arab world,” said Laila Rabah, a Palestinian Earlham first-year. “Dictators are all we know.”

Many in Iraq resent the United States’ attempt to instill democracy and westernize the Arabic culture.

Carter said “(Considering Saddam a martyr) is a good deal about face-saving in the Arab culture and recovering from the humiliation imposed by the Western world.”

“To me a martyr is someone who does holy acts for a holy cause,” said Rabah. “I personally do not consider Saddam to be a martyr because he killed his own people, but I can see why others would .not many have opposed the United States’ control of the Middle East like Saddam did.”

“Arabs have this great past that is not recognized by the West, so they feel both humiliated yet proud,” said Carter. “Now, throughout the media, they are portrayed as backwards camel jockeys and terrorists who should be wiped off the face of the earth.”

The fact that Hussein was executed on a major Muslim holiday caused many in the Muslim world to oppose the execution.

“It is very insulting” said Harris. “Muslims feel disrespected and offended.”

“Remaining unbowed to the power of the United States after his capture only would enhance (Hussein’s) image as steadfast defender of Islam and the Arab world, especially Iraq,” Carter said.

During his last days, Hussein won more respect in the eyes of the Arabs.

“In spite of all the taunting, all he said was ‘Long live the country,'” said Harris. “He made a huge impact on people in the last days of his life, as he carried himself with dignity.

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