Television channels yesterday showed that the parts of Brussels under Islamic State attack looked like war zones, with the dead still where they had fallen and the wounded dazed with shock. Reportage of the kind asks the implicit question: how is it possible for human beings to believe that random killing serves a divine purpose? And then by coincidence there followed on the screen a documentary, Saudi Arabia Uncovered.
People have some general sense that Saudi Arabia has claims to be the most retrograde country in the world, comparable only to North Korea. This film shows how a single family owns and runs it with a police force of thugs brainwashed to think that their religion obliges them to be unjust, secretive, and brutal. At one point, spectators are gawping at the corpses of five men alleged to have been robbers dangling high on a gibbet. At another point, a woman accused of murder is held to the ground in a public square shrieking, “I didn’t do it,” while the executioner stalks round her to obtain the angle he needs to cut her head off. The schoolchildren are taught that Christians and Jews are evil and must be killed; they have no means of knowing better. Here are tributes to Raif Badawi and Hala al-Dorani, who are among the few asking for freedom of speech and freedom of movement, therefore exposing themselves to persecution, prison, and possibly execution.
Ostensibly Saudi Arabia is an ally of the United States and Britain, and opposes the Islamic State. The film shows Barack Obama, General Petraeus, and Prince Charles among other deferential Westerners talking about arms’ sales and oil. Death of a Princess was a dramatized film about the execution of a Saudi Princess and her lover, and when it was shown in 1980 the Saudi royal family built it into an international scandal, threatening to break off relations with Britain. It will be interesting to see if they have a similar reaction to this film, which makes it unmistakably clear that the crime that ended in Brusssels has its origins in Saudi Arabia.