Thursday, October 20, 2011

Unity Against Justice for Religious Minority

CDHR Commentary: While the Saudi ruling elites, public and media are quick to condemn the West and Israel, among others, for their intolerance and maltreatment of Arabs and Muslims, they treat their own Muslim minorities with disdain. It’s estimated that about one fourth of the Saudi population practices the Shi’a brand of Islam which the Saudi rulers and majority of society consider heretical; therefore its devotees are unworthy of respect and equality. Because of their religious orientation, the Saudi Muslim minority are marginalized, deprived of their country’s wealth, equal opportunities and social justice. Ironically, most of these minorities have lived in and owned (for centuries before the establishment of the Saudi state) the oil rich and strategic region of Saudi Arabia, the economic jugular of the country.
Like any ostracized group of people, the Saudi Shi’a have peacefully tried for decades to draw their government’s and compatriots’ attention to their plight, but to no avail. Not only that, but the more they ask to be treated equally by their autocratic monarchs, the more the system increases its oppression and depiction of this segment of its society as traitors, trouble makers and foreign agents. In addition to marginalizing the Shi’a minority, the regime’s habitual heavy-handedness in arresting and incarcerating peaceful protesters, religious leaders and human rights advocates led members of this disenfranchised group to resort to violence as occurred on October 3, 2011.
In response to governmental agents’ arbitrary arrest of two elderly men on October 2nd with the intent of holding them hostage until their sons who were wanted by the government came forward. Tragically, one of the innocent fathers had a heart attack while in Saudi police custody. In response to this unjustified arrest and many other such arbitrary governmental actions, a small number of the Shi’a took to the streets the next day and reportedly resorted to violence against the security forces.
Unfortunately, many segments of Saudi society including the Shura Council, religious scholars and some media outlets not only condemned the protesters, but “…urged the government to confront such troublemakers with an iron hand.” That so many segments of Saudi society would support their autocratic government continuing discriminatory policy against and oppression of their compatriots because of religious diversity demonstrates the hypocrisy and true nature of the Saudi system and its dangerous policy of dividing society along religious lines.
The question that should be asked is whether the Saudi government is targeting the Shi’a minority because they are heretics threatening the established order and national security or are there other motivations behind the government’s actions? One of the widely known Saudi-Wahhabi tools used to control the population is dividing society along religious, regional, gender and ethnic lines. However, since Iran’s rise to regional prominence during the last three decades and ongoing Revolt against Arab dictators, the Saud regime has become not only more anxious over its influence among Muslims and within the international community but over its very survival.
Having witnessed the West’s support for anti-authoritarian movements in the Arab World, the autocratic Saudi monarchy has become less trusting of Western governments’ commitment to protect it from internal and external threats as they have done for eighty years. In spite of this, the monarchy knows that the economically desperate West would do whatever it takes to prevent any disruption of the production and shipment of Saudi and other Gulf States’ oil, including military action against any forces that threaten the oil supply which the Saudi government has successfully linked to it survival. Is it possible that the Saudi government is provoking its Shi’a minority into committing violent actions which can then be blamed on Iran in the hope that the West will attack that quarrelsome country to pre-empt further instability in the Saudi oil fields, when in fact the Saudi objectives are to eliminate its primary competitor in the Gulf, to insure the continuity of the Saudi monarchy and to assure Saudi led Sunni dominance in the Muslim World?

Shoura members, scholars denounce Qatif riots
Published: Oct 6, 2011 23:07 Updated: Oct 6, 2011 23:07
JEDDAH: Saudi religious scholars and Shoura Council members have strongly denounced Monday’s Awamiya riots by a group of people in the Eastern Province city of Qatif, and urged the government to confront such troublemakers with an iron hand.
Suleiman Al-Zayedi, a member of the Shoura, urged the people of Awamiya not to engage in any activity that would undermine the Kingdom’s security and safety, incited by foreign forces.
“You should not work as tools of spiteful people and those who target our security, be they foreign individuals or organizations or governments,” Al-Zayedi said and urged citizens to prevent such riots.
“The reply for such excesses and violations should come from citizens before the government, because every citizen has a responsibility to protect their nation from harm,” he said and urged the government to punish the rioters in accordance with the Shariah law.
According to a Saudi Press Agency report, 14 people including 11 security officers were injured in the incident. Nine policemen were shot and wounded and two hurt by petrol bombs, the report said, adding that a man and two women were injured by gunfire.
The Interior Ministry said the troublemakers in Qatif were acting at the behest of a foreign country “which tried to undermine the nation’s security in a blatant act of interference.” The ministry urged the troublemakers in the city to prove their loyalty to the nation.
Majdi Hariri, another Shoura member, said such acts of sabotage would not affect the Kingdom’s national unity. “It indicates that foreign forces are trying to undermine the Kingdom’s security and unity,” he added. Sheikh Aazib Al-Misbal, chairman of the Islamic Affairs Committee at the Shoura, said the riots that took place in Awamiya were unacceptable and urged the government to take strong action against saboteurs.
Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, imam of the Grand Mosque in Makkah and a professor at Umm Al-Qura University, condemned the Awamiya riots, describing them as “criminal and disruptive acts.” He said Islam prohibits the killing of innocent and peaceful people and destruction of private and public properties.
“What is the objective of these troublemakers and on whose interest they are acting?” the imam asked and called for greater efforts to promote Islamic values and tackle contradictions in Muslim societies.
A number of Islamic preachers, academics and ordinary people in Qatif have expressed their anguish over the Awamiya incident. “Those who took part in rioting do not represent Qatif people,” said Abdulhaleem Al-Kaidar, district chief (umda) of Tarout.

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