Related post: What Arab Spring? This is Saudi Winter! – by Abdul Basit
There is only a tiny proportion of Shia Muslims in the Gaza Strip, the slice of Palestine run by Hamas, a branch of the Sunni Muslim Brotherhood, which recently emerged as a majority party in Egypt’s parliament. Even so, Hamas security men wielding clubs stormed a private gathering of some 25 Shias held to mark the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein’s death (Arbaeen or Chehlum), sending several to hospital. This was despite Iran’s being a notable patron of Gaza’s Islamist rulers (Hamas).
Egypt’s small Shia community has also felt a chill Sunni wind. On Ashura, Egyptian police forced hundreds of Shias to abandon a ceremony at the Mosque of Hussein in Cairo, where the Shia martyr’s severed head is said to be buried. A government official said that a stop had been put to their “barbaric rituals” so as to protect them from attack by angered citizens.
Worse may be expected in Syria, where a regime dominated by Alawites, a branch of Shia Islam, is failing to suppress an uprising largely led by pro-Saudi Wahhabi groups. The mixed city of Homs has already witnessed hate speech against and attacks on Shia Muslims. Anti-Shia propaganda videos are common on the internet, such as this one (listen to the mullah’s speech at 4:20):
This Ashura (10 Muharram), which fell on December 5th, bombs killed some 30 Shias in Iraq. Bombers struck again in Iraq on January 10th, killing 19 Shias. Five days later a huge bomb in the Iraqi port city of Basra killed 53.
There are similar vicious echoes in the small Gulf state of Bahrain, where the minority Sunni government last year bloodily crushed an uprising led by the majority Shia with the help of Wahhabi / Deobanid mercenaries hired from Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.
In the week beginning 16 January thousands of people – activists say tens of thousands – took to the streets of Awwamiya in the eastern province to commemorate the death of Issam Muhammad Abu Abdallah, aged 22. He had been shot by Saudi security forces on the night of 12 January. (Source)
Another outlying danger zone is Yemen, where the large Zaydi Shia community, already in open revolt in the north of the country, faces threats from virulently chauvinist Sunni Wahhabi groups, including al-Qaeda. Shia rebels in Yemen recently described the capture of Radaa, a town in the south, by al-Qaeda forces, who declared it an Islamic emirate, as an American-Saudi plot to foment schism and weaken Islam. (Source)
Shia group attacked by Hamas police in Gaza
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — A group of Shiite worshipers say masked police of Hamas rulers violently raided a religious service in the northern Gaza Strip on Saturday, prompting furious denials by the Hamas-dominated government in the territory.
Around 20 followers of the Shia branch of Islam were performing a ceremony for Ashura, the commemoration of the death of Prophet Muhammad’s grandson Hussein, when masked police stormed the private home in Beit Lahiya, they told Palestinian human rights groups.
Security officers beat the worshipers with clubs, and took them for interrogation at a police station where they were further assaulted, they told the Gaza-headquartered Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
Several sustained fractures and bruises from the beating and were taken to Balsam and Kamal Odwan hospitals, PCHR said.
The Gaza-based Al Mezan Center for Human Rights said that upon leaving hospital, they were handed notifications to go to the interior security headquarters in northern Gaza.
A Shiite man, who asked to be referred to as M. M., told Ma’an on Sunday “to be assaulted by Hamas security is outrageous because we are not against the law, we respect it.”
“These rites concern freedom of religion … we are Muslims like all the people in Gaza.”
The Shia will continue exercising their religious rites, which they are proud of, he said.
Another Shiite man, using the name Abu Zeinab, said security forces dispersed the religious ceremony after alleging it did not have the proper license, but denied the group were assaulted.
Hamas officials initially refused to comment on the matter, and said Sunday they considered the account to be a fabrication by Ma’an.
On Monday, the Gaza interior ministry published a press statement denying the account relayed by human rights groups.
“Police tracked an illegal group with corrupted views that were planning to commit crimes,” the ministry said in its version of the Saturday night raid.
The ministry also said Palestine is a Sunni country where Shiism does not exist.
“We respect all the doctrines around the world, especially the Shiite school, and we don’t intervene in what they believe and we don’t want them to intervene in our beliefs as well,” the statement said.
While vowing to study allegations of human rights abuse, the interior ministry warned human rights groups to consult official sources and not believe just any account of events. The ministry also called on the media to work for positive national goals.
PCHR urged the Gaza government to open an investigation into “the use of excessive force by the security officers … and to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The raid broke Palestinian laws on freedom of belief and expression, and a prohibition on raiding private homes without a judicial order, Al Mezan said.
Meanwhile, M. M. told Ma’an that Shiites would “complain about Hamas to Iran, which supports the movement in Gaza.”
Abu Zeinab complained that Iran did not offer sufficient support for Shiites in Gaza. While the Shia are harassed by Hamas, they faced worse suppression under Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority rule prior to the 2007 split between the governments, he added.
Hamas premier in Gaza Ismail Haniyeh is due to visit Iran in early February. The Sunni group is believed to receive considerable support from the Shia power, but the uprising in Syria, Iran’s regional ally, has strained their historic ties. (Source)
A man who described himself as a Shia Muslim said police burst into a house where followers were marking Arbaeen, commemorating the end of 40 days of mourning following the anniversary of the death of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
The man said about 15 worshippers were beaten and detained. He declined to be identified, fearing further harassment.
But some of the men filed complaints to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights and the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights, which both sharply condemned Hamas over the attack.
Mezan said in a statement that during Saturday evening’s incident in the town of Beit Lahia, police smashed up the apartment, broke the bones of seven of the men, detained some of them at a police station and beat them again before sending them to a military hospital for treatment.
“The attack is a violation of the freedom … to practise one’s faith,” Samir Zakout, a Mezan official, said.
Ihab Ghussein, a Hamas interior ministry spokesman, said on Tuesday that police stormed the apartment of a group of “outlaws” who were planning “criminal acts”.
He also said he was unaware of the presence of any Shia Muslims in Gaza and that his offices would look into right groups’ allegations that the men were beaten.
There are no official statistics on the number of Gaza’s Shia Muslims. They are believed to number several dozen – a minuscule minority among a population of 1.6 million people who are overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim. (Source)
In the meanwhile, blind, Iranian-influenced mullahs of Pakistan keep praising Hamas: