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Opinion: Why should Saudi Arabia Overlook al-Nimr? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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A New York Times reporter deleted a tweet posted on his account saying that all those executed in Saudi Arabia were Shia, only to later clarify that the information was incorrect. Nevertheless, he failed to point out the fact that only four of the condemned were Shia and the remaining 43 were Sunnis.

On the other hand, the BBC World Service cut the news short summarizing it not as the execution of 47 convicts but that of one man, Nimr al- Nimr. However, in a separate news flash it mentioned one other executed, the convicted murderer of BBC’s cameraman.

We certainly have an understanding of why Iran is leading a media campaign against the executions and targeting Saudi Arabia. It is simply at a publicity and political war with its Saudi neighboring kingdom, ever since it decided on entering the sectarian wars in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

Nevertheless, why are others driving behind Iranian publicity campaign without even examining both sides of the story, instead of just one? Was Nimr al-Nimr a peaceful protestor? Definitely not. Was al-Nimr the leader of Shia? Certainly not, he was just like other extremist religious clergy men. Does his speech criticize the Saudi government? Yes, so does the ones given by ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Saudi Arabia cannot execute guilty Sunni preachers on the provisions of incitement leading to murder, but Shia convicts guilty of the same crime otherwise. Perpetrators of the same crime must be punished equally with no political exceptions.

Prisons in Saudi Arabia incarcerate over 5,000 extremists, hundreds of whom are convicted, with a Saudi Sunni majority, only harboring a few tens of Saudi Shiites.

Nimr al-Nimr is a Saudi religious extremist figure among the Shia. He is similar to Faris al-Shuwail, the extremist Sunni religious figure, and Hamad al- Hamdi one of the sheikhs of Sunni extremism.

All three men did not shed blood with their own hands, but were all convicted by the Saudi judiciary. According to the law, their crimes was incitement toward violence, and their punishment came because they pushed their followers to commit murder and were directly involved in their violence-based actions.

Al-Hamidi’s group kidnapped and murdered Paul Johnson, an American, and froze his decapitated head for three days in the refrigerator of the house where they were arrested. Al-Hamidi might have not murdered Johnson personally, yet his followers did so based on his teaching.

Abdul-Aziz Ataiwalai, Sunni, al-Qaeda’s operations media broadcaster was also executed. He too did not directly kill anyone, yet he recruited, incited, and armed others.

Furthermore, al-Nimr was an extremist sheikh, and it is not true that he was a leading politician. He is equal to the Sunni extremist group leaders: he incites militant protests, fights, and gathers funds and arms.

Al-Nimr was caught while helping to smuggle a convicted murderer out of prison. He had his own specialized group identified by 23 wanted members who are accused of armed attacks, four of whom have surrendered themselves to the authorities and were later released. Others were killed in confrontations, and some are still on the run.

Moreover Nimr al-Nimr was in a different car when purposely hit a police car chasing the wanted Hussein al-Rabi’ that night, and was arrested two months later. During al-Nimr’s arrest, another vehicle shot out a rain of bullets at security forces, which wounded al-Nimr, along with others.

In accordance to Saudi laws, al-Nimr was legally responsible of inciting, recruiting and for the heinous crimes his followers have been carrying out based on his teachings.

Their wrongs are large in number: They have murdered six policemen in separate incidents, tens were injured, they killed three civilian motorbike riders, randomly shot at foreigner labor workers to obstruct progress, and killed a Bengali worker.

Al- Nimr’s supporters have also shot at a German diplomatic vehicle, setting it on fire. However the two diplomats survived and the perpetrator was later caught.

Religious figures are not immune to sin, especially when they carry out incitement that lead to the murder of civilians, regardless if they are Sunni, Shia, or belong to another religion.

Our problem today, actually the world’s problem today, is extremist religious figures ushering in destruction and threatening peace everywhere. It is not logical to ask Saudis to carry out justice on Sunni religious leaders alone and overlook others involved.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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