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An HRW report states that Saudi clerics used derogatory statements against Shias even in state-sanctioned religious edicts and schoolbooks

A report compiled by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has revealed that the government of Saudi Arabia not only tolerates but even condones hate speeches by upper ranks of the Sunni Islamic clergy against followers of Shia Islam.

In a report titled “They Are Not Our Brothers: Hate Speech by Saudi Officials” stated that top clerics of the country were spreading words of discrimination and hatred through schoolbooks and social media platforms.

The New York-based human rights watchdog further mentioned that the Saudi clerics, including those holding official positions, have “vigorously employed” social media tools to spread words of intolerance among millions of their followers. The report said that often the words used by the clergy rise to the level of “incitement to hatred or discrimination”.

The report notes instances where derogatory statements by these clerics have even found place in state-sanctioned religious edicts and schoolbooks.

According to the 62-page report by HRW, the clerics use widely understood terms in the children’s schoolbooks to reprimand beliefs of the Shiite sect.

The HRW also cited several examples wherein clerics publicly gave hate speeches or made derogatory remarks against the country’s minority group. Quoting one such instance the report says, Sharif Hatem bin Aref al-Awni, a former member of the government’s Shura council, in a post on social networking site Facebook, hailed the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Qatif in 2015. However, the cleric later removed the post without any explanation.

The study further found out that in 2016, the current Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, while speaking to Okaz newspaper, termed Iranians (a Shia majority citizenry) as “non Muslims’.

The report pointed out that the derogatory statements against the Shiites had “fatal consequences” in the past, with terror outfits in the region like Islamic States and al-Qaida justifying the attacks on Shiite civilians and religious sites in Syria, Iraq and other places.

“Saudi officials immediately condemned these attacks, but they have not acted to stamp out hate speech,” said HRW.

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