Protest Arrest of Shia Cleric in Saudi Arabia
Arrest of Shia Cleric Tawfiq Al-Amer
Human Rights First Society [Saudi Arabia]
June 26, 2008
From: [email protected]
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2008 21:38:21 +0000
Subject: [HumanRightsFirstSocietySaudiArabia] Freedom for Shia Cleric in Jail without Trial in Ahsa
Freedom for Shia Cleric in Jail Without Trial in Ahsa
June 23, 2008
Ahsa is a district in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. Ahsa makes up 24.5 % of the area of Saudi. Out of its 1.1 million population, Muslims of the Shia sect are 60%. The other 40% are Muslims of the Sunni sect. In the country as a whole, the Shia make up a minority of about 15%.
Because of their belief, Shia in Saudi are considered to be citizens of a lesser level. They practice their worship with little freedom and they are discriminated against in most of their civil rights.
- A Shia could not be found in any key position in the whole country. Jobs like ministers, government advisors, governors, presidents of public companies, municipality presidents, diplomats, religious public positions, or officials in Islamic organizations financed by the government are forbidden for Shias.
- There are some posts in the government where a very few Shias are selected. Still, Shias from Ahsa have very little space in them.
- There is no Shia from Ahsa in the Consultative Council.
- There is no Shia from Ahsa in the Eastern Province Council.
- In Ahsa itself, there are 46 government administrations. None of them has a Shia General Manager.
- The Shias in Ahsa cannot get a license to operate a private school or even a kindergarten.
- Out of the 319 local male schools, there are only 7 Shia headmasters.
- Out of the 309 local female schools, there is no Shia headmistress.
- King Faisal University (governmental) has its HQ in Ahsa. Of its 287 professors, only 7 are Shias.
- In the Health Affairs Directorate, out of the 34 key positions, only 6 are for Shias.
- Poverty levels among Shias are clearly higher than others. This could be observed by the growing number of Shias applying to charities for relief.
- Licenses for new mosques are difficult to attain. It is still the case that old mosques and old and new Husainias (Shia public halls) are not allowed licenses. It's a common practice for the government to close these religious places under the pretext that they are not licensed.
- Shias cannot get a license for any religious school.
- Shia worship is considered illegal. In the last 7 years, the government arrested more than 160 Shia persons in Ahsa and jailed them between 7-30 days for reasons related to worship. This practice is still going on. Last week, the latest arrest has happened.
- Public celebration of Shia religious occasions is considered illegal. In the last one and half years, the Governor's Office in Ahsa has raided a couple of areas having these festivals, damaged all festival sites and humiliated participants.
- Up to today, the government does not allow publication of Shia religious books, it blocks their websites, and does not allow them any expression in the public media.
The problem is even worse when looking into details of how Shias are dealt with in different areas by bosses, officials, or even by the general public. All this discrimination has a starting point. It's the bad stereotypical image created by the government and the Wahhabi (the official sect adopted by the government) religious body in the country. Shias are continued to be stereotyped as 'infidels' and 'traitors'. In the past, in government publicity and school text books, Shias were accused as infidels and traitors in a direct way. After 9/11 the Saudi Government has been put under a lot of pressure from the outside to adopt reforms and to be tolerant. But persecution of Shias remains. However, a new strategy is adopted -- not to refer to Shias per se but to specify some of their religious practices in still accusing them of being infidels.
Every time a new declaration is issued by Wahhabis that Shias are infidels, Shias get very worried. Shias are used to experiencing a new wave of discrimination and hate against them, every time such a declaration is announced.
Lately, 22 very well known Saudi Wahhabi clerics, who have good relations with the government, issued a statement against Shias, stating that Shias are infidels, traitors, and a great threat to Sunnis. The Saudi government did not take any action to combat such divisive statements that encourage hatred and allow for a new wave of discrimination against Shias.
On June 14, 2008, Shia Sheikh (Cleric) Tawfiq Al-Amer, 49, from Ahsa, in the mosque where he is Imam, criticized the Wahhabi Statement, showing how dangerous it could be to the community, and asked the government to prevent such statements and to remedy the results of it.
Sheikh Al-Amer is known to have supported the religious and civilian rights of Shias in the past. He has been called many times by the Governor's office to ask him to stop his activities, which he did not agree to. Sheikh Al-Amer was detained on April 29, 2005 for 24 hours. On June 22, 2008, he was arrested and put in jail without trial. It is thought that the cause of the arrest is his critique of the Wahhabi clerics and his previous activities of which the Governor complains.
The Human Rights First Society calls on the Saudi Government for the immediate release of Sheikh Tawfiq Al-Amer.
Human Rights First Society
[Note: Minimally copyedited by CIP.]
Related Topics: Saudi Arabia, WahhabiWatch
receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free center for islamic pluralism mailing list