I was sent to these Arabs as a stranger, unable to think their thoughts or subscribe to their beliefs, but charged by duty to lead them forward and to develop to the highest any movement of theirs profitable to England in her war. If I could not assume their character, I could at least conceal my own, and pass among them without evident friction, neither a discord nor a critic but an unnoticed influence.


Every year Saudi Arabia lands on or near the top of lists of violators of religious freedom, and every year the royal family that rules the kingdom could not care less. The United States has formed an alliance with this intransigent opponent of human rights for reasons that parallel the charge given to Lawrence of Arabia. Leading Saudi Arabia forward into unfathomable wealth by developing its oil industry, the United States has found the partnership profitable for both economic and geopolitical interests.

U.S. oil companies arrived in Saudi Arabia a generation after Lawrence helped lead Arabs in their revolt against World War I-era Turks. Like the Christians who often work for these and other companies, Lawrence had no illusions about the limits of his ability to assume Arab character. But he did defer to his host culture, accepting its ways as a point of departure, and his example in war may yet have something to teach us about spiritual battles for human dignity.

Beheadings Every Friday


In 1992, December 25 fell on a Friday, the Muslim day of rest, when pastor Oswaldo "Wally" Magdangal was to be hanged in the Saudi capital of Riyadh for blaspheming Islam. Shari'ah law requires beheading for "apostates"—those who renounce Islam—as well as for murderers, and no Friday passes without at least one such execution in the public ...

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How to Confront a Theocracy
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July 8, 2002

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