Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

The Saudi Shiites and the Al-Awamiyah riots | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Discussions about sensitive incidents relating to any sectarian minority would be more beneficial if they came a little later, after every one has relaxed, and when logical reasoning is used instead of emotions. Of course, this applies to the bloody riots in Al-Awamiyah near al-Qatif, a city with a Shiite majority, which marked a spark which the government managed to put out before it reached the wider Saudi fabric. It is for this reason that the reactions of the Saudi people, in all their intellectual spectrums, were strict and firm in opposing such riots as well as taking a stand against Iran, a state that has acquired the exclusive right to provoke sectarian tensions and sedition in peaceful states. There were “no buts” allowed in this regard, in the same manner that no “no buts” were allowed when dealing with al-Qaeda remnants who carried out a series of terrorist acts in Saudi Arabia. The general consensus of siding with the Saudi government in its drastic handling of the riots does not mean that the people are satisfied with its general performance, nor does this mean denying the Shiite minorities of Saudi Arabia their rights.

The most significant lesson to be learned from such an incident, which fortunately passed by peacefully, is that rational Shiites should adopt a tough stance towards such events. Despite our deep appreciation for Shiite figures who have adopted explicit and clear stances, other influential Shiites seemed hesitant to denounce the incident; or rather they did so in a whisper, but demanded their rights loudly. We should not confuse the issues here, for no one with a sense of patriotism, honour or rationality could accept these events. For example, if a school was set on fire by a student because he was abused by one of his teachers, then it is the responsibility of all those affected to put out the fire first, then condemn the student’s action and punish him, before looking into his grievances against the teacher. Rights and entitlements cannot be claimed in such a barbaric and violent manner. It would be ridiculous to suggest that the student’s complaints and demands be satisfied whilst the school was still on fire, and the building and pupils were under threat.

It is unfortunate that the enthusiasm manifested in discussions of the Al-Awamiyah riots, especially on social networking websites, has produced further errors, most dangerously the mistake of sweeping generalizations. Apart from the obvious injustice that results from generalizing an issue, this also causes the moderate category to shrink and lean towards extremism. This is what we saw when al-Qaeda’s terrorists carried out a number of bombings, causing some intellectuals to launch accusations and make broad generalizations in a manner akin to throwing cluster bombs at religious institutes, school curriculums, and various Muslim clerics and scholars. Accusations extended to the Salafis and Wahabis, and were about to reach the heart of Islam itself. When the London bombings occurred in July 2005, it saddened us to hear the extreme right’s accusations over there, which accused Islamic institutions and centers, and even Islam as a religion, of being behind the bombings. Yet, it pleased us enormously to hear British officials and intellectuals issue statements confining terrorism to a limited category, and deeming the rest of the Muslim community there as innocent victims.

Thus, anyone who has suffered the injustice of others should not misjudge others. It is depressing to see a small category who believe that every religion or sect incorporates moderates and likewise extremists, except for the Shiites. Such an unrealistic fantasy will inevitably broaden the sense of Shiite alienation, thus widening the gap between different social classes of Saudi society as a result. If this continues to happen, the climate will become contaminated with the spread of the “Iranian germ”. After the Syrian revolution erupted, this germ was proven to be acting in cooperation with the Syrian regime, to create hotbeds of sedition in a number of pivotal countries in the region including Saudi Arabia. The aim is to untie the rope that the brave Syrian people have placed around the neck of their bloodthirsty regime.