The rift between Shia and Sunni Muslims is a long-standing feud. The two sides have for centuries committed acts of violence and government sanctioned atrocities against one another. There are several splits in the Middle East along this line of sectarian religious thinking. And now with the several civil wars and ISIS to contend with, many question the recent decision of the Saudi government.
The BBC reports
Saudi Arabia has executed the prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, the interior ministry said.
He was among 47 people put to death after being convicted of terrorism offences; it said in a statement.
Sheikh Nimr was a vocal supporter of the mass anti-government protests that erupted in Eastern Province in 2011, where a Shia majority have long complained of marginalisation.
For many, this and a few other executions by the Saudi government was a silencing of critics. Nimr was a prominent figure in the minority Shia community. He complained against the Sunni-led government and what he called discrimination against the Shia. But this is hard to justify as the vast majority of those executed were not Shia but Sunni terrorists.
Scores of Shi’ite Muslims marched through the Qatif district of Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province in protest at the execution of cleric Nimr al-Nimra, an eyewitness said. They chanted “down with the Al Saud”, the name of the ruling Saudi royal family.
But most of the 47 executed in the kingdom’s biggest mass execution for decades were Sunnis convicted of al Qaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia a decade ago. Four, including Nimr, were Shi’ites accused of shooting policemen.
So, how are we in the West to see such executions? For many, the worst thing that you can do to a person is to take their life. Believing that there is nothing waiting for us after this life, the taking of life for any reason is wrong and is to be appalled. But, there is justification for the taking of life in the Bible; for those who commit crimes worthy of death.
Is this barbaric or is it the right thing to do? Well, it is true that all those executed were given trials and were convicted of terrorist attacks. And if they had taken a life they had forfeited their own. But, not even the Islamic community agreed.
Riyadh’s main regional rival Iran and its Shi’ite allies immediately reacted with vigorous condemnation of the execution of Nimr, and Saudi police raised security in a district where the sect is a majority in case of protests, residents said.
And the BBC reports
Shia-lead Iran said Saudi Arabia would pay a “high price” for the execution.
A foreign ministry spokesman said Riyadh “supports terrorists… while executing and suppressing critics inside the country”.
But an MP in Iraq’s governing Shia coalition said the death aimed at “provoking sectarian fighting”, while Lebanon’s Shia council called it a “grave mistake”, Reuters reported.
What will the effects be? Only time will tell if this will have positive or negative effects. The strongest American partner in the region may be the next to fall as they have now enemies on both sides of the religious divide.