WASHINGTON, June 3, 2015 — Over the last 10 days, Saudi Arabia has experienced terrorist attacks on Shia mosques, with attackers killing men, women and children as they pray for peace.
On May 22, 2015, a suicide bomber entered Imam Ali mosque in Al-Qudaih, Qatif, Saudi Arabia, killing more than 20 people and leaving more than 130 wounded. Ambulances and medical staff did not respond to the scene of the explosion – a Shia mosque – leaving neighbors to move the bodies to the hospital in their own cars.
A second explosion took place on My 29, 2015. A car bomb in front of Imam Hussein mosque in the Dammam left four dead.
While ISIS detonated the bombs, the House of Saud laid the groundwork for the anti-Shia attacks.
While the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attacks, a major contributing factor is the hate against Shia Muslims; a hate fomented by the Wahhabi leadership in Saudi Arabia that believe that as Shia Muslims are not Wahhabi they are are heathens and enemies.
This is the culture that has encouraged ISIS to target Shia mosques in Saudi Arabia.
Wahhabism, a Sunni-based movement that started in the mid-18th century is the basis of Saudi Arabia’s religious ideology. Wahhabism is the most austere and strict of the four schools of Sunni Islam and follows a literal interpretation of the Koran and adherents believe that all who do not follow Wahhabism are infidels.
Founded on the tenets of Wahhabism, the theology has long dominated Saudi Arabia. In 1744, the founder of the current Saudi royal family, Muhammed bin Saud, joined forces with the founder of Wahhabism, Muhammad bin Abd al-Wahhab making pact whereby Wahhab backed Saud in his efforts to unify the various tribes of Arabia into a single country, Saudi Arabia, which Saud controlled.
In exchange, Saud agreed to continue his adherence to Wahhab’s religious ideology.
The agreement brought the nomadic militias that backed Wahhabi, called ikhwan (“brotherhood”), under the Saud umbrella and allowed Saud to win political and military victories that established the Saudi state.
The Saud dynasty has used Wahhabi scholars to provide religious legitimacy for its actions since that time and to move against its rivals. As a result, Wahhabism and anti-Shia ideology has dominated the Saudi culture.
This extreme view of Islam by Saudi Arabia has led Riyadh to back extremist groups in the region who target Shia Muslims as well as Christians, Jews and Izidis.
The Islamic State, also known as Daesh or ISIS, shares the Wahhabi’s extreme ideology. The Saudi government has designated ISIS a terrorist group and provides no direct funding to ISIS. It also prohibits private citizens from donating to terrorist groups.
However, Saudi donors, likely including at least some government officials, were believed to be the most significant funding source for the precursor group to ISIS.
This funding likely allowed ISIS to thrive and develop its own financial sources.
The same ideology that prevented women from driving in Saudi Arabia leads to taking Christian, Izidis and Shia women as slaves and to selling young girls to wealthy elder men in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Wahhabi followers, the term “jihad” means a form of violence.
For Shia Muslims, the term “jihad” means sacrificing your time and life to make the community better, not pledging to fight against others.
In Saudi Arabia, Shia Muslims make up 15 percent of the population in Saudi Arabia. The Shia are systematically discriminated against, thanks to the prevalence of Wahhabism.
Organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Shia Rights Watch regularly report inhumane treatment of Shia Muslims in Saudi Arabia. Yet there has been no action to prevent discrimination against the Shia minority in this country.
Shia, who have no right of citizenship in Saudi Arabia, are marginalized and excluded from government. Even in provinces where the majority of the population is Shia, they have virtually no rights and are barred from participating in elections.