Later On

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Wow! Great column carefully explaining what’s going on (and why) in Saudi Arabia

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You seldom see such a good summary. And it comes from a good source:

Toby Matthiesen is a research fellow in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Pembroke College, University of Cambridge. He is the author of The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism, which outlines the history of political movements among the Shiites of Saudi Arabia and their relationship with the Saudi state. It will be published by Cambridge University Press in January 2015.

He writes in the Washington Post:

On Oct. 15, Nimr al-Nimr, a Saudi Arabian Shiite cleric, was sentenced to death by the Special Criminal Court in Riyadh. Since 2011, Nimr has become the figurehead of a protest movement centered in eastern Saudi Arabia that has been largely denied coverage by mainstream media. The sentencing has implications far beyond Nimr’s personal fate. The Saudi crackdown is important because it has set a precedent for how the kingdom deals with political dissent and not just because it is another example of Saudi anti-Shiism.

The timing of the sentence is puzzling. Saudi decision-making works in myriad ways. Some observers feel that Nimr’s death sentence is intended to show the Sunni population that alongside a number of long prison sentences issued against Sunnis who had supported Islamic State militants or al-Qaeda, the government is also being tough on Shiites. But this sectarian logic only further entrenches divisions and hostilities that have fueled the rise of extremist Islamic groups and the regional sectarian war.

The Saudi-sponsored doctrinal and strategic anti-Shiism has recently backfired at home, too. On Nov. 3, one day before Ashura, one of the holiest days in the Shiite Muslim calendar, Sunni militants opened fire on a crowd leaving a Shiite prayer hall in the al-Ahsa oasis in eastern Saudi Arabia. Several Shiites were killed, including a number of minors, and scores wounded. While the Shiites in Saudi Arabia experience institutional and religious discrimination, the state’s security forces had hitherto protected them against attacks by Sunni militants. Al-Qaeda and its various offshoots had for years planned attacks on Shiites in the Eastern Province, aiming to increase sectarian tensions in the kingdom and possibly provoke armed retaliation from the Shiites. Several such plots, including one believed to have been targeting senior Shiite cleric Hassan al-Saffar, were foiled in the past.

All official organs of the state, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 November 2014 at 4:59 pm

Posted in Mideast Conflict

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