Thursday, March 19, 2009

Saudi Shi'ite asks for independent state because of oppression

Shi’ite cleric Sheikh Nimr Al-Nimr from the oil-rich Qatif province in Saudi Arabia has called for independence for the region from the central government in Riyadh. His call came due to the government’s oppression of the country’s Shi’ite population and after Shi’ite worshipers were attacked in the holy city of Medina two weeks ago by Saudi security forces, reported.

“Our dignity is being held, and if it’s not let free, we will examine other options, and any legitimate option will be examined” Al-Nimr said in a video posted online.

Hundreds of Shi’ites demonstrated in Medina two weeks after the religious police filmed female Shi’ite pilgrims visiting the graves of revered Shi’ite figures in Medina. “We saw with our own eyes how the dissension forces beat up women. Where’s the dignity? Where’s justice?” Al-Nimr said.

The ensuing clashes have increased tension between the government and the kingdom’s Shi’ite community, which constitutes between five and 10 percent of the population.

Saudi Arabia practices Wahhabism, a strict form of Sunni Islam. Shi’ites often complain they are discriminated against by the government and say they face restrictions on religious freedom. Most Saudi Shi’ites live in the eastern part of the kingdom.

Around 15 percent of Muslims worldwide adhere to Shi’ism, constituting the second-largest group of believers in Islam after the Sunnis. The main bone of contention between Sunnis and Shi’ites is the issue of succession to the Prophet Muhammad, who is believed to have died in 632 AD (CE). Iran has the highest concentration of Shi’ites, with the vast majority of its 70 million-strong population adhering to this branch of Islam. Other Shi’ite concentrations are located in Iraq, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Pakistan and Lebanon.

Source: The MediaLine

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