What is beheading?
To get technical, the accurate definition of beheading “typically refers to the act of intentional decapitation as a means of murder  or execution. It  may be accomplished, for example, with an axe , sword , knife , wire , or by other more sophisticated means such as a guillotine .”
To get “un-technical”, it sounds like one of the worst ways to die…ever. Through recent use of the charming death experience as a radical killing method which screams “I have a bigger agenda here than this person's head”, beheading has become synonymous with extremism, specifically in the Middle Eastern regions.
With so many agonizing ways to kill someone, why is beheading the chosen method of demise for so many in the Middle East regions? In addition, who is keeping this quick and painless (that’s questionable and we will get to that later) process at the top of the killing charts?
Where did it originate?
The Romans, who moved to beheading as a more honorable and obviously quicker way to die than crucifixion, were some of the first to adopt this style of prescribed killing. This method was used regardless of class. Turns out, rich or poor, we all die the same when our heads are cut off.
Eventually, beheading was passed over for more effective and less inhumane ways of death. By inhumane, we mean, not only horrible for the person losing their head but also ridiculously traumatic and graphic for those watching. That being said, judicial beheading is legal today in the Middle Eastern states of Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Iran.
What seems to get reactions from people the most are the various tools which can be used to perform the beheading. While an ax or sword were, and still are in most areas, the preferred weapon of choice, it’s the crude weapons that garner the most shock.
In recent news and videos, beheadings by radical “anti” groups can be seen using rudimental objects like blunt pocket knives to literally saw their victims heads off.
Even when something as “clean” as an ax or sword is used, this still takes some skill on the part of the executioner to ensure a “quick” death. If you have ever tried to cut down a tree or chop wood, then you know that your blade does not always hit the mark. Often times, it would take an executioner more than one swing to completely sever the head from the body which makes that whole dying process take even longer. We really hate when that happens.
Thank goodness for the guillotine!
On pro-executionioners first attempt at streamlining the beheading process, this little gem made for some happy(er) victims.  Crowds, on the other hand, were really bummed out that no “heads would roll” in the future. Thanks to the handy basket catcher, this invention really turned down the pomp and circumstance around the family beheading night.
The Guillotine itself is not actually named after it’s inventor but rather one of the earliest human rights activist who fought for a more humane death, Joseph-Ignace Guillotin , a French physician. France had its Guinness World Book of Records beheading run in the 1700’s in which one year of guillotine use claimed the lives of 30K people. France had its last beheading in 1977, only 36 years ago.
For those countries that still use beheading as the primary source of execution, swords seem to be the chosen weapon. In Saudi Arabia, still globally known as being one of the few countries that hosts public executions , the government is considering a move to firing squads due to a shortage in swordsmen. Anyone up for the job, please email Saudi Arabian officials at firstname.lastname@example.org . (This is a joke, please do not email anyone about executioner positions)
The ultra-conservative Gulf kingdom beheaded 76 people in 2012, according to an AFP tally based on official figures while Human Rights Watch (HRW) actually put the number at a lower 69.
Does it hurt?
Of COURSE it hurts! However, based on lab results of beheadings done on rats, the brain is only able to function for about four seconds after the spinal cord is severed from the brain. Not bad. Only four seconds of consciousness can be proven to exist…in rats, once the decapitation process is complete. Keep in mind that those are results for a clean swipe. No sawing. No interruptions. No squirming-to-get-away victims.
Why is beheading associated with Islamic countries?
In a region where Sharia law trumps governments in many cases, public shows of punishment are not only allowed, they are promoted. Sharia law states that teachings should come from the Quran and examples of Mohammed.
While "sharia law is only applicable to Muslims,” living in a country that is under Islamic rule means that there is no separation of church and state. The government IS your God…and God is your government.
References from the Quran state explicitly that execution is allowed (5:33) and should be public (24:2). It also references beheading specifically saying that beheading is allowed by the words "Smiting Neck - 8:12 and 47:4.” 
The Quran also mentions several times that forgiveness is also a completely viable option however, that act is not quite as publicly renowned as the whole beheading thing. (5:45, 2:178)
Not only does this explain why public executions are still held in traditionally conservative Muslim countries, it also explains why radical Islamists tend to choose this option for their spectacular home movies. It is only suitable that Infidels should die from the prescribed method of the Quran, naturally.
Beheading and the Media: Killing with Kindness
As radical groups have risen, so have the methods in which the efforts to behead and the beheadings themselves have been shared with the world. As mentioned earlier, Saudi hosts public executions . People can see what happens to “criminals” in that region if they are given the death sentence. Videos of those same beheadings can be found on the interwebs in various “secret” sites such as LiveLeak.com . In the US and other regions, however, executions are not public. In fact, they are kept quite secret.
Using social media like Facebook and Twitter, supporters of radical Islamist groups have gone so far as to share videos of how one should “handle the beheading of an infidel” . An active member of Al Qaeda shared a video of the best way to hold someone while cutting their head off. He called it “killing with kindness”.
Ah…those extremists…so thoughtful.
Maybe they should look into Dr. Guillotine’s technological advances. It is quite possible these men may have, in all their internet usage, heard about Google. There are certain to be more mobile, desert ready versions of the trendy neck splitter online somewhere. I’ve heard Amazon delivers pretty much anywhere these days. Insha’Allah.
By Jennifer James