Schism In Saudi Arabia

he author, who is a professor emeritus at the University of Bayreuth, uses a variety of sources among which books, unpublished documents, human rights reports, magazines and newspaper articles, as well as interviews with Saudi officials and members of Shi’a organizations. He uses this data to study the evolution of Shi’ite opposition in Saudi Arabia since the 1979 Shi’ite uprisings. He pays particular attention to the reform movement which brought issues of political liberty and freedom of religion to the world’s attention.

Dr. Ibrahim work, being a rather detailed history of the Shi’is living in Saudi Arabia’s eastern province, helps to determine who the Saudi Shi’is really are, how exactly they identify themselves, and what their position is within the nation and the state. Moreover, it aids me in understanding the evolution of these elements which helps with obtaining a clearer picture of Shi’is in Saudi Arabia.

Ismail, Raihan. Saudi clerics and Shi’a Islam.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. In this book, the writer looks at the discourse of the Saudi Wahhabi clergy regarding Shi’ism and Saudi Arabia’s Shi’a communities by analyzing their sermons, lectures, publications, and religious rulings. These records are used in her research on Shi’is in Saudi Arabia from a religious perspective, rather than merely a political one. Dr. Ismail’s work is beneficial for my research on the position of Shi’is in Saudi Arabia since it puts a great emphasis on the way Saudi Wahhabi clerics perceive the Shi’is.

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Moreover, the book discloses the theological convictions of the Wahhabi ulama towards Shi’ism and describes their perception of the external Shi’a threat coming from Iran, Iraq, and Bahrain.

Considering this book elaborates on the Sunni-Shi’a divide in Saudi Arabia from a religious perspective, I believe it serves as an added value to my research, considering most works put the emphasis on the political implications of the divide. Matthiesen, Toby. The Other Saudis: Shiism, Dissent and Sectarianism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. The writer of this book, Dr. Toby Matthiesen, is a research fellow in international relations of the Middle East at the University of Oxford. In this work of his, he outlines the politics of the Shi’is in the eastern Province of Saudi Arabia from the nineteenth century until the present. Moreover, the book elaborates on the experiences of Shi’is under the Wahhabi state and how they have mobilized politically to improve their position. Also, the writer focuses on the concept of co-optation of Shi’is by the Saudi state since 1993. Most sources used by the author are based on little-known Arabic sources, extensive fieldwork in Saudi Arabia and interviews with key activists.

This source has an added value to my study since it is a newer publication and thus, it elaborates extensively on the 2011 Arab Spring and the outcome it had for Saudi Shi’is. In addition to this, this book puts a stress on the geopolitical economic importance of the oil-rich Eastern Province. In addition to this, the books seventh chapter focuses extensively on the controversial case of the arrest and execution of Shi’a cleric Nimr Al-Nimr. Louër, Laurence. Transnational Shia politics: religious and political networks in the Gulf. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008. Dr. Louër’s book looks at historical militant Shia transnational movements in the Gulf, focusing on Kuwait, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. The consequences of the Gulf War and the fall of Saddam Hussain’s regime have led the Gulf’s Shi’is to concentrate on national issues of politics. Furthermore, she explains in her book that Shi’a groups present in the Gulf find their origins in various Iraqi movements.

She argues that, even though Shi’as of the Gulf are citizens of their respective neighbors, their networks remain linked to religious authorities residing in Iraq or Iran. This often causes for political and religious conflict between Gulf Shi’is, Wahhabi clergymen, Gulf monarchies, and Shi’i clerics. This book is particularly interesting to me, considering its study of transnational Shi’a religious authority in the Gulf which interferes in other nation’s political affairs. This article studies the relations Saudi Shi’is have with Saudi police in the Kingdom’s Eastern Province in a historical and political context. Considering the Saudi state is Sunni dominated, it naturally influences policing strategies in the Eastern Province. Moreover, this means that sectarianism is state-fueled and leads to an unfavorable position for Shi’is in the area, since it is the Sunni-led government which investigates all crimes supposedly ascribed to Shi’is in the region.

Shi’is are often charged by the police with terrorism, especially after terrorist attacks the Kingdom has witnessed in the 1990’s. The article uses a wide range of written sources, as well as media accounts to create a critical perspective on Saudi sectarian politics. What is most interesting about this article, is that it discloses the effects of the government’s policies on a personal level. It shows how the government directly interacts with its Shi’a population. Zabad, Ibrahim. Middle Eastern Minorities: the impact of the Arab Spring. Oxon: Routledge, 2017. This book thoroughly describes the effects of the Arab Spring on minorities in the Middle East.

The author, an associate professor of political science at St Bonaventure University, writes about various religious and ethnic minorities in during the conflict, among which: Kurds, Shi’is, Christians, Alawites, Copts, Zaydis, and Druze. Concerning Shi’s in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, the writer focuses on the fact that the Saudi state makes both domestic and international efforts to neutralize the Shi’i threat. He mentions that the Saudi government specifically became felt threatened of a so-called Shi’i Spring which might occur in Bahrain and spread throughout the Gulf. What makes the chapter on Shi’ism in the Gulf in this book interesting, is that it specifically looks at the position of Shi’is in Saudi Arabia during and after the Arab Spring and how the state perceives rather modest demands, such as religious tolerance, inherently dangerous to its existence.

This article, written by Dr. Madawi Al Rasheed, a known Saudi Scholar, is centered around the transformation of Shi’a resistance from one which revolved around military action to one which seeks cultural authenticity. Shi’a intellectuals and religious scholars attempt to write their own history to legitimize their existence in the Gulf. In other words, they put forward a historical narrative in which they argue that they are, as opposed to what the government says, indigenous to the Gulf Region. Different from most academic works on the topic, this article looks at the Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict in Saudi Arabia from a more existential and academic point of view. The other tries to shed light on how the Shi’is write about themselves in history books It also looks at Shi’a historical narratives and discloses their efforts on an intellectual level to clarify the hardship and discrimination Shi’is are facing in Eastern Saudi Arabia.

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Schism In Saudi Arabia. (2022, Mar 05). Retrieved from

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