Post by David Amicus
I'm trying to figure out why the Saudi's killed this Shia cleric. Reading this bio it seems to me it was political and not religious. Anyone have thoughts about this?
Definitely political, and personal, which in Saudi Arabia are mostly the
same thing. Religious differences between Shi'a and Sunnis might act as
a proxy for underlying non-religious issues, but they're not the cause
of the current problems.
Sheikh Nimr was a member of Saudi Arabia's Shi'a minority and lived in
the eastern part of Saudi Arabia, toward the Arabian gulf. He had
studied in Iran as a young man, and was a widely respected religious
leader and scholar. Nimr supported and publicly called for non-violent
protests in the wake of the Arab Spring. Although he wasn't an outright
pacifist and believed that force could be justified in some
circumstances to right wrong, as best I can tell he did not call for
violence often and not to right wrongs in Saudi Arabia. I'm not an
absolute pacifist either, so I can't hold his lack of complete pacifism
Nimr did not claim publicly, and probably did not believe, that all
Sunnis are heretics. (Note: That's actually relatively rare among the
Shi'a -- Sunnis are far more likely to reject Shi'a as heretics than
vice versa from what I've seen.) He also criticized Shia and
Shia-backed leaders when he believed that they were violating Islam
and/or doing injustice -- notably, Bashir Assad (supported by Iran).
So why was he executed? Nimr criticized the Saudi royal family harshly,
repeatedly, and publicly. He did not consider them legitimate Islamic
rulers and believed that they needed to go away or be removed. *That*
was behind the Saudi regime's hatred of him and classifying him as a
terrorist, as best I can tell.
I doubt I'd have liked the man personally; we had too many disagreements
about issues that affect me directly. I do NOT believe that he was a
terrorist or terror supporter in any way, shape, or form, though. The
motivations behind what he said and did appear to have been sincere
religious belief, loyalty to his community, and a drive approaching
compulsion to call for justice when his sense of justice was outraged.
I regret his killing. I think the world lost somebody who at very least
did more good than harm.
Many of the Muslim Arab Spring refugees that I follow on Twitter (among
them, Iyad el-Baghdadi) believe that this particular group of executions
was intended to stir up tensions between the Arab world and Iran. Saudi
Arabia is hurting with the crash in oil prices. They've had to raise
prices on essential commodities at home, and are considering imposing
taxes on their population, which they haven't had to do before.
The whole Saudi government has an unstable foundation. On the one hand,
they have an implicit deal with the Wahabi religious establishment --
you support us, we'll support you. On the other hand, they have an
implicit deal with their citizens -- we'll take care of you, you support
us. The wealth that allows them to uphold the first "deal" is based
almost entirely on oil -- unlike the Emir of Kuwait, the Saudis have not
invested large quantities of the oil money in non-oil-based securities.
So when the price of oil goes down, the Saudis have significant threats
to stability at home.
They're not the first country, or the first country involved in the
Middle East right now, to stir up bad feelings and/or war outside the
borders to distract their people from problems at home. Look at Russia
-- same thing. <wry grin>
I'm enough of a politics junkie that I'd enjoy watching the whole mess
except for the deaths of innocents. :( Not everybody the Saudis
executed on 2 January was innocent; quite a few were terrorists as far
as anybody can tell. But there's the rub -- the Saudi legal system
makes it nearly impossible to tell when a trial led to a justified
guilty verdict, or when it led to a travesty of justice.
I've seen the damage done in the United States over the last 20 years as
the Innocence Project and others have brought into sharp public focus
the fact that our legal system makes non-trivial numbers of mistakes.
I've also seen the effects of the rapidly growing public awareness that
the police in this country have a pattern of killing people who were not
posing a threat to them or others. A lot of people have changed where
they live, where they work, where they travel, and how they interact
with others because they don't trust the police or legal system. In
some communities this awareness is oppressive, ugly, and a substantial
burden on ordinary people.
Imagine how much worse things must be for many people who live in Saudi
Catherine Jefferson <***@ergosphere.net>