Saudi Arabia’s Escalating Campaign against Shia Muslims
Although Saudi Arabia’s campaign against Shia Muslims has become apparent and undeniable since the Arab Spring movement in 2011, the Kingdom has run a vicious and segregationist policy against Shia Muslims ever since its founding father, King Ibn Saud, assumed the self-proclaimed reign of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. It would be almost impossible to draw an exhaustive list of the many violations which the Shia community have suffered in Saudi Arabia alone. However, one has only to look at Al Saud’s open calls for regional bloodshed against the Shia community to grasp the sheer magnitude and tyrannical nature of the Kingdom’s anti-Shia policy.
No one should forget the spite expressed by the leader of the congregation at the Grand Mosque (Masjid-ul-Haraam) in Mecca, Adel Al Kalbani, which shocked even his interviewer on BBC Arabic Television in May 2009 when he declared that all Shia Muslims were apostate, unbelievers, and as such should be hunted down and killed. Knowing that Al Kalbani was appointed to his position by the King himself, one can only surmise that the cleric was merely expressing the state’s sentiment and forthcoming policy against all Shia Muslims, whether within or outside the borders of the Kingdom. Al Kalbani suggested that all Saudi Shia should be forced to leave the Kingdom, “as for repatriating the Shia, we can possibly discuss it.” He stressed that no members of the Shia community should be entitled to political representation at the Supreme Council of Ulama, even though they are citizens.
But if the government has sought to persecute and mistreat Saudi Shia within its own borders it has also projected that hatred onto the region in order to promote division among communities in the name of control. Driven by political and territorial greed, the House of Saud has served as ground zero for anti-Shiism. The nefarious force behind the region’s sudden burst of ethnic-based violence and prejudices, disseminated by Saudi Arabia has sown the seeds of intolerance in the entire Middle Eastern region.
Saudi Arabia’s global anti-Shia policy
Saudi Arabian Wahhabis have been keen to persecute and terrorize their Shia community and their crusade against Shia Islam has not stopped at their border; their aims have been to discredit, demonize and criminalize Shia throughout the Middle East region.
On April 2013, Saad Al Durihim, a Saudi cleric, posted a series of comments on Twitter in which he advocated that militias in Iraq demonstrate a more “heavy handed” approach when dealing with Shia Muslims and kill any Shias they might encounter – women, men and children in order to instil fear in their hearts. Such statements essentially gave fanatics a carte blanche right to kill an entire community based on their ethnicity and faith, in complete and utter violation of international law.
Al Durihim’ hateful cries stand directly in violation of article 6 and 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 6: “Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.” Article 18: “Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.”
Al Durihim continued to categorize Shia Muslims as lesser human beings, social pariahs and undesirables in order to justify and rationalize his calls for genocide. Shia Right Watch, decided to step into this international void of silence and denounce Saudi oppression against Shia Muslims in order to promote unity on the basis of human dignity.
The organization wrote in a statement, “SRW expresses its strongest disapproval of the freedom of “clerics” who use their power to call for hatred and murder. Wahhabi clerics have continuously called for killing Shia Muslims and their governments have been supporting them. There are many Shia Muslims who have lost their lives because of the motivational talks of clerics.”
This came in reaction to Saudi cleric Nasser Al Omar’s fatwa against Shia Muslims everywhere. He ruled in his fatwa, “Shia have only two options, they can convert to ‘Islam’ or be killed if they decided to keep their beliefs…First slaughter all their men. Slaughter Shia until there are rivers of their blood. Second inmate their females. If virgin let the BEST ‘Mujahedeen’ enjoy them [sexually]. If not virgin but beautiful reserve for the rest of the “mujahedeen” and the rest of the females can be given to the rest of the men [who are not considered ‘Mujahedeen.’ Last group are Shia children. Capture them and teach them ‘true’ Islam and train them to be soldiers so we can use them in wars.”
Finally Al Omar called for all Shia places of worship, and cultural centres to be burned to the ground.
One has only to look at how Bahrain royals have behaved toward their Shia community to understand what power al Omar and those like him have held over the region, promoting blind hatred and bloodshed.
Tragic religious restrictions
In Mecca, the holiest and most symbolic city of Islam, the Saudi authorities have imposed despicable sanctions and restrictions on Shia Muslims in order to not only humiliate them but force them to give up their religious traditions. During the Hajj – the pilgrimage to Mecca – one of the five pillars of Islam, a moment in every Muslim’s life which carries much symbolism and importance, Shia Muslims have been singled out and left vulnerable by the authorities and fellow pilgrims for no other reason than their determination to abide by Shia Islam principles and traditions.
Back in 2009, a 15-year old Shia pilgrim was shot in the chest by police in Mecca and a Shia cleric was stabbed in the back by an unidentified pilgrim.
The Saudi authorities have also imposed restrictions on Shia Muslim’s visiting of Al Baki cemetery, where many members of the Prophet Mohammed’s family (PBUH) have been buried, including Imam Hassan (AS). Since the cemetery holds so much importance to the Shia community, the Saudi authorities have for no justifiable reason chosen to close the cemetery to all Shia pilgrims, advocating that such visits are contrary to the spirit of Islam. Those who have braved the ban have been beaten mercilessly by Wahhabis militants.
Shia women pilgrims have been regularly arrested while performing Haj for partaking in Quranic class studies, while other Shia men pilgrim were severely reprimanded for selling so-called “Shia memorabilia” in Mecca.
Calling for change
But if the government is intent on destroying the Shia to better assert its hold over the region, others have vowed with equal resolve to combat bigotry, racism and intolerance everywhere. The organization said, “SRW believes such human right violators must be punished for the violence and hatred that they spread in the society. This organization calls on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to immediately stop Nasser al-Omar and others who call for violence. No human rights violator should feel safe to publicize its violations.”
And indeed, all human beings should be entitled without any reservation or pre-condition to leave in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These precepts have been recognized by the world community. It is only when all people have learned to respect and appreciate each other differences and embrace each other for the individuals that they are, that society will truly evolve. Until then, we all share in the guilt of the blood being spilled.