Thursday, September 03, 2009

HRW: Saudis must offer Shia equality

"Saudis 'must offer Shia equality'

A report by the Human Rights Watch pressure group has detailed what it says is systematic discrimination in Saudi Arabia against Shia Muslims.

Unfavourable treatment of minority Shia extends from education and employment to the justice system, leading to a big increase in sectarian tension, it says.

They comprise 10 to 15% of the Saudi population, and have long complained of being treated as second-class citizens.

Human Rights Watch wants a government commission to tackle the problem.

Saudi Arabia follows the puritanical form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism, and many Wahhabi clerics regard Shia Muslims as unbelievers.

Equal opportunities

The report focuses on an incident in February, when Shia pilgrims in the holy city of Medina clashed with religious police.

This led to Shia demonstrations in the Eastern Province followed by the arrest of a number of the protestors.

Shias want equal opportunities in government and the military as well as freedom of worship.

They want to be able to build their own mosques, have their civil courts granted more power and to print their own religious books.

Human Rights Watch says that a government commission should explore the sharing of holy places among Muslims of differing creeds, especially in Mecca and Medina."

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