Sunni vs. Shiite in Saudi Arabia

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Joshua Teitelbaum - On Dec. 16, the Saudi city of Medina witnessed severe clashes between Sunnis and Shiites at the time of the annual Ashura gathering. Wahhabism, the leading stream of Islam in Sunni Saudi Arabia, is extremely anti-Shiite, since certain Shiite practices conflict with Wahhabi Islamic practice. Shiites, who constitute 10-15% of the Saudi population, have suffered greatly under Saudi rule. Depredations have included killings, arbitrary arrests, job discrimination, and forbidding of their religious ceremonies. With Shiite Iran on the cusp of nuclear arms, and with demonstrated victories by Iran's proxies in Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza, the Saudi rulers cannot afford to be seen coddling local Shiites. Saudi Sunnis expect their leaders to defend the honor and position of the Sunni majority, lest Shiite victories generate a sea change and reverse the age-old dominance of the Sunni sect of Islam.

2011-01-18 10:22:26

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