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The Sunnis and the Shiites…the Knife has Cut to the Bone - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Kuwait has announced a ban on public gatherings in order to reduce any escalation in the sectarian tensions between the Sunnis and the Shiites; this is in order to curb the “sectarian unrest.” The issue has reached the point that Acting Prime Minister of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber Mubarak al-Hamad al-Sabah, warned that “the knife has cut to the bone.” This came against the backdrop of extremist and shameful statements – by anybody’s standards – being issued against [the Prophet’s wife] Sayyida Aisha, by an individual who can only be described as an extremist. We have, of course, felt the reactions to these extremist and shameful statements in the Gulf media, particularly the print media.

Moving away from these statements, Bahrain has decided – for a number of reasons – to withdraw its citizenship from a certain Shiite figure, while it has also banned another Shiite figure from performing [religious] sermons. In Lebanon, we can see an organized attack being carried out against the Sunnis, while the Huthis in Yemen have wrapped themselves in the cloak of the Wali al-Faqih [Guardianship of the Jurists], and we hear some in Iraq saying that power should remain in the hands of the Shiites, even though Iraq is governed by a democratic mechanism. Therefore, in light of all that has been mentioned above, the question that must be asked now is; in what direction is our region heading? And whose interests are being served by all of this sectarian incitement?

There are two sides to this issue; firstly, we cannot put our security, our achievements, and most importantly of all, our stability, at risk for every disgraceful or scandalous statement issued by an extremist or somebody who is seeking fame. Every party has its extremists, and extremism and militancy only breed further extremism and militancy. Therefore, we must be wise in the course of action that we take, and we should [also] avoid over-reacting.

The other issue is that it is in our interests to strengthen the concept of citizenship, the rights to co-existence, and respect of differences; this is the responsibility of the rulers and statements of all levels [of government]. The media must also beware of stoking the fires [of sectarianism], but this does not mean ignoring the dangerous role that Iran is playing in our region, it must reveal and expose this but without destroying our homes with our own hands, for stability is a blessing that must be protected.

Strengthening citizenship does not mean offering concessions with regards to offending religious beliefs or insulting the Prophets, the Rightly-Guided Caliphs, the Prophet’s Companions, or the Prophet’s wives. Rather what is needed is for a wise course of action to be followed, and for individual cases to be dealt with as individual cases, rather than over-reacting to this, which is something that serves only to further inflame the sectarian conflict.

The problem is that those playing with sectarian fire forget that – sooner or later – they will be the ones who will be most affected by this, whether this is Iran or those who are assisting it in our region. Iran is made up of a mosaic of different ethnicities, which if incited, will represent a greater danger to Iran itself than to any external enemy, and the same applies to others in the region.

Therefore, what is important here is to be wise and avoid dragging our countries, especially the Gulf States, into danger for nothing more than an individual act; for the Gulf is facing a greater threat than we first thought, and we must not allow anything to lead to the incitement of sectarian tension between the Sunnis and Shiites in our region. There is much that we must protect, and we must now allow anybody to drag us into the quagmire of sectarian conflict; the most important thing that we must protect is the blessings of security and safety that have been bestowed upon us by God.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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