Anti-Shi'ism is the prejudice against or hatred of
Shia Muslims based
on their religion and heritage. The term was first defined by Shia
Rights Watch in 2011, but has been used in informal research and
scholarly articles for decades.
The dispute over the right successor to
Muhammad resulted in the
formation of two main sects, the Sunni, and the Shia. The Sunni, or
followers of the way, followed the caliphate and maintained the
premise that any member of
Quraysh could potentially become the
successor to the Prophet if accepted by the majority. The Shia
however, maintain that only the person selected by God through the
Hadith of the pond of Khumm) could become his successor, thus
Imam Ali became the religious authority for the
Militarily established and holding control over the Umayyad
Sunni rulers perceived the
Shia as a threat – both
to their political and religious authority.
Sunni rulers under the Umayyads sought to marginalize the Shia
minority. The persecution of
Shias throughout history by Sunni
co-religionists has often been characterized by brutal and genocidal
acts. Comprising only around 10-15% of the entire Muslim population,
to this day, the
Shia remain a marginalized community in many Sunni
Arab dominant countries without the rights to practice their religion
freely or to become established as an organized denomination.
1 Historical Persecution
1.2 Siege of Baghdad
1.3 Persecution under Seljuk/Ottoman Empire
2 Modern Times
2.2.1 2011 uprising
2.7 Saudi Arabia
3 See also
The grandson of Muhammad, Imam Hussein, refused to accept Yazid I's
rule. Soon after in 680 C.E., Yazid sent thousands of
to lay siege to Hussein’s caravan. During the Battle of Karbala,
after holding off the
Umayyad troops for six days, Hussein and his
seventy-two companions were killed, beheaded, and their heads were
sent back to the caliph in Damascus. These seventy-two included
Hussein's friends and family. The more notable of these characters are
Habib (Hussein's elderly friend), Abbas (Hussein's loyal brother),
Akbar (Hussein's 18-year-old son), and Asghar (Hussein's six month old
infant). On the night of
Ashura (which is called Sham-e-Gharibaan),
the army of Yazid burned the tents which Hussein's family and friends
had lived in. The only occupants of the tents after the war were the
women, children, of Hussein's companions along with Hussein's last ill
son named Zain-Ul-Abideen (who became the next Imam after Hussein).
During the raid, Yazid's forces looted, burned, and tortured the women
and children. They then took the heads of the martyrs, planting them
on spearheads to parade. The women's shawls and headdresses were also
stripped and they were forced to march beside their men's heads all
the way to Damascus. They stayed in prison there for about a year.
While Imam Hussein’s martydom ended the prospect of a direct
challenge to the
Umayyad caliphate, it also made it easier for Shiism
to gain ground as a form of moral resistance to the Umayyads and their
Siege of Baghdad
After the Mongol sack of Baghdad in 1258, prejudice against Shias
became more frequent, reminiscent of blaming
Shias for every
Persecution under Seljuk/Ottoman Empire
Main article: Ottoman persecution of Alevis
In response to the growth of Shiism, the
Ottoman Empire killed Shias
in Anatolia. Hundreds of thousands of
Shias were killed in the Ottoman
Empire, including the
Alevis in Turkey, the
Alawis in Syria and the
Shi'a of Lebanon.
Freedom of religion
Separation of church and state
Status by country
Central African Republic
Traditional African religion
Anti-Eastern Orthodox sentiment
Anti-Oriental Orthodox sentiment
New religious movements
Christian countercult movement
In the past
India faced persecution by some former Sunni
rulers and Mughal Emperors, resulting in the death of Indian Shia
Qazi Nurullah Shustari
Qazi Nurullah Shustari (also known as Shaheed-e-Thaalis,
the third "Martyr") and
Mirza Muhammad Kamil Dehlavi
Mirza Muhammad Kamil Dehlavi (also known as
Shaheed-e- Rabay, the fourth "Martyr") who are two of the five martyrs
Shias also faced persecution in
centuries, by the
Sunni invaders of the region which resulted in the
killing of many
Shias and as a result most of them had to flee the
Kashmir in subsequent years had to pass through the most
difficult period of their history. Plunder, looting and killing which
came to be known as ‘Taarajs’ virtually devastated the community.
History records 10 such Taarajs also known as ‘Taraj-e-Shia’
between 15th to 19th century in 1548, 1585, 1635, 1686, 1719, 1741,
1762, 1801, 1830, 1872 during which the
Shia habitations were
plundered, people killed, libraries burnt and their sacred sites
desecrated. The community, due to their difficulties, went into the
practice of Taqya in order to preserve their lives.
Villages disappeared, with community members either migrating to
safety further north or dissolving in the majority faith. The
persecution suffered by
Kashmir during the successive foreign
rules was not new for the community. Many of the standard bearers of
Shia’ism, like Sa’adaat or the descendants of the Prophet Mohammad
and other missionaries who played a key role in spread of the faith in
Kashmir, had left their home lands forced by similar situations.
During Aurangzeb's rule, many
Shia Muslims from North Karnataka had to
leave their cities to save themselves. They settled in Bangalore,
Alipur, Karnataka and other southern cities.
India is a
Secular state and adherents of
Shia Islam in
India are free to practice their faith freely. Additionally the day of
Ashura, listed as Moharram, and the Birthdate of
Ali are recognized as
Shias Muslims in
Kashmir are not allowed to practice mourning
on the day of Ashura. The state government of Jammu and
placed restrictions over Muharram Processions which is seen as
opposite to the right to freedom of religion that is fundamental right
of Indian Citizens. Every year clashes take place between the mourners
and Indian guards on the eve of Karbala martyrdom anniversaries.
Most foreign slaves in
Shia Ismaili Mountain Tajiks of
China. They were referred to by
Sunni Turkic Muslims as Ghalcha, and
enslaved because they were different from the
Shia Muslims were sold as slaves in Khotan. The
Shias as slaves.
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Criticism of Islamism
Islam and other religions
There is limited violence against
Shias in Bangladesh. For example, on
October 24, 2015 a
Shia mosque was blasted while 1 died and many
injured as well. Another most widely discussed attack took place
at Haripur in Shibganj in Bogra. The Muazzin was shot dead in the
Shiite mosque and at least four men including the Imam were injured
while Magrib prayer was going on.
Further information: Human rights in Bahrain
Shia Islam in Bahrain
A majority of Bahrain's population are Shia, with figures between
70-75% people. The ruling Al Khalifa family, who are
arrived in Bahrain from
Qatar at the end of the eighteenth century.
Shiites alleged that the Al Khalifa failed to gain legitimacy in
Bahrain and established a system of "political apartheid based on
racial, sectarian, and tribal discrimination." Vali Nasr, a
leading Iranian expert on Middle East and Islamic world said "For
Sunni rule has been like living under apartheid".
An estimated 1000 Bahrainis have been detained since the 2011 uprising
and Bahraini and international human rights groups have documented
hundreds of cases of torture and abuse of
According to csmonitor.org, the government has gone beyond the
crushing of political dissent to what "appears" to be an attempt to
"psychologically humiliating the island’s Shiite majority into
Shia Muslims in Bahrain is severe and
systematic enough for a number of sources (Time magazine, Vali
Nasr, Yitzhak Nakash, Counterpunch, Bahrain Centre for Human
Rights, etc.) to have used the term “apartheid” in describing
Ameen Izzadeen writing in the Daily Mirror asserts that
after the dismantling of the apartheid regime in South Africa, Bahrain
remained the only country where a minority dictated terms to a
majority. More than 70 percent of the Bahrainis are Shiite Muslims,
but they have little or no say in the government.
Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor describes Bahrain as practicing
a form of sectarian apartheid by not allowing Shiites to hold key
government posts or serve in the police or military. In fact, the
security forces are staffed by Sunnis from Syria, Pakistan, and
Baluchistan who also get fast-tracked to Bahraini citizenship, much to
the displeasure of the indigenous Shiite population.
Shia Islam in Egypt
Shia activists claim the number exceeds one million, the
Salafists say there are only a few thousand. Estimated numbers of
Shias range from 800,000 to about two to three
According to Brian Whitaker, in Egypt, the small
Shia population is
harassed by the authorities and treated with suspicion, being arrested
- ostensibly for security reasons - but then being subjected to
torrents of abuse by state security officers for their religious
beliefs. For decades, international organisations – including the
UN, Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International – have documented
instances in which Egyptian
Shias have been targeted for their
religious beliefs. A December 2012 report by UN refugee agency UNHCR
highlighted the fact that
Shias still cannot openly practice their
religious rituals in Egypt. Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui told the UNHCR that
many groups were being prosecuted for alleged 'blasphemy'. US
Commission on International Religious Freedom continues to label Egypt
as a "country of particular concern" in terms of systematic violations
of religious freedom. In December 2011, Egyptian security forces
prevented hundreds of
Shias from observing
celebrations in Cairo’s El-Hussein Mosque, a
Shia holy site. Police
forcibly removed the
Shia worshippers from the mosque after Salafi
groups accused them of performing barbaric rituals.
Shia Islam in Indonesia
On December 29, 2011 in Nangkrenang, Sampang,
Madura Island a Shia
Islamic boarding school, a school adviser's house and a school's
principal house were burned by local villagers and people from
outside. Indonesia is the most populous Muslim country in the world
which is dominated by Sunnis. A day after the incident, a Jakarta
Sunni preacher said: "It was their own fault. They have established a
pesantren (Islamic school) in a
Sunni area. Besides, being a Shiite is
a big mistake. The true teaching is
Sunni and God will only accept
Sunni Muslims. If the Shiites want to live in peace, they have to
repent and convert."
Amnesty International had recorded many
cases of intimidation and violence against religious minorities in
Indonesia by radical Islamic groups and urged the Indonesian
government to provide protection for hundred of Shiites who have been
forced to return to their village in East Java.
Shia Islam in Malaysia
Shias from promoting their faith. 16
arrested on the 24th of September 2013, for "spreading" their
The Malaysian government is seeking to prevent
Shia Islam from
spreading—despite the country's hosting a 250,000-strong Shia
population. Home Ministry secretary-general Datuk Seri Abdul Rahim
Mohamad Radzi announced Last Year that
Shia followers who were only a
small community of three camps 10 years ago are now a population of
250,000, including 10 active groups, across Malaysia. "The development
of information technology is among the factors for their growth as the
teachings are spreading through a range of social sites,” Radzi
said, urging that the
Shia movement be rooted out
The ISA was used on several occasions to target Shi‘a in Malaysia.
Ten Shi‘a were arrested in 1997 under the ISA and another six
suffered the same fate in October 2000. The federal system has also
meant that adherence to the anti-Shi‘a fatwa has not been
standardized, even among those states in which it carries legal force.
In December 2010, for example, 200 Shi‘a were arrested by the
Selangor Islamic Religious Department for celebrating ashura under the
Selangor state shari‘a criminal enactment law. Four years later, 114
Shi‘a were arrested by the Perak Islamic Religious Affairs
Department with assistance from the Malaysian police.
Sectarian violence in Pakistan
Sectarian violence in Pakistan and
Shia Islam in Pakistan
Pakistan has been seeing a surge in violence against
Shia Muslims in
the country in recent decades. Over 1,900
Shias (including Hazaras and
Ismailis) were killed in bomb blasts or targeted gun attacks from 2012
to May 2015
The violence has claimed lives of thousands of men, women and
Shias make up 5-20% of the Muslim population in
Pakistan. Doctors, businessmen and other professionals have
been targeted in
Sunni Muslim militants on a regular basis.
Hazara people in Quetta, have lost nearly 8000 community members. Most
have been targeted by terrorist attacks by
Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan which are a
Sunni militant organizations
Al-Qaeda and Taliban. In the northern areas of
Pakistan, such as
Parachinar and Gilgit-Baltistan, Muslim militants
have continuously been attacking and killing Shias. On August 16,
2012, some 25
Shia passengers were pulled out of four buses on Babusar
road, when they were going home to celebrate Eid with their families.
They were summarily executed by
militants. On the same day, three Hazara community members were shot
dead in Pakistan's southwestern town of Quetta.
Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, are killing
Shias by the
hundreds in Pakistan.
2011–2012 Saudi Arabian protests
2011–2012 Saudi Arabian protests and
Shia Islam in Saudi
In modern-day Saudi Arabia, the
Wahhabi rulers limit
participation to a few notable people. These notables benefit from
their ties to power and in turn, are expected to control their
Shias comprise roughly 15% of the 28 million
Saudis (estimate 2012). Although some live in
Medina (known as
the Nakhawila), Mecca, and even Riyadh, the majority are concentrated
in the oases of al-Hasa and
Qatif in the oil-rich areas of the Eastern
Province. They have faced long-term religious and economic
discrimination. They have usually been denounced as heretics,
traitors, and non-Muslims.
Shias were accused of sabotage, most
notably for bombing oil pipelines in 1988. A number of
Shias have been
executed. In response to Iran’s militancy, the Saudi government
collectively punished the
Shia community in
Saudi Arabia by placing
restrictions on their freedoms and marginalizing them economically.
The ulama (who adhere to Salafism) were given permission to sanction
violence against the Shia. What followed were fatwas passed by the
country’s leading cleric,
Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz
Abd al-Aziz ibn Baz which denounced the
Shias as apostates. Another by Adul-Rahman al-Jibrin, a member of the
Higher Council of Ulama even sanctioned the killing of Shias. This
call was reiterated in
Salafi religious literature as late as
Lebanon which have a sizable number of wealthy Shia,
Saudi Arabia does not. There have been no
Shia cabinet ministers. They
are kept out of critical jobs in the armed forces and the security
services. There are no
Shia mayors or police chiefs, and none of the
Shia girls’ schools in the Eastern Province have a
The government has restricted the names that
Shias can use for their
children in an attempt to discourage them from showing their identity.
Saudi textbooks are hostile to
Shiism often characterizing the faith
as a form of heresy.
Salafi teachers frequently tell classrooms
full of young
Shia schoolchildren that they are heretics.
In the city of Dammam, a quarter of whose residents are Shia, Ashura
is banned, and there is no distinctly
Shia call to prayer. There is no
Shia cemetery for the nearly 25% of the 600,000
Shias that live there.
There is only one mosque for the city's 150,000 Shias. The Saudi
government has often been viewed as an active oppressor of Shias
because of the funding of the
Wahhabi ideology which denounces the
In March 2011, police opened fire on peaceful protesters in Qatif, and
Shia unrest in October 2011 the
Saudi government promised to
crush any further trouble in the eastern province with an "iron
Saudi Arabia continues its anti-
Shia campaign both domestically and
abroad. According to the Independent, "Satellite television, internet,
YouTube and Twitter content, frequently emanating from or financed by
oil states in the Arabian peninsula, are at the centre of a campaign
to spread sectarian hatred to every corner of the Muslim world,
including places where
Shia are a vulnerable minority, such as Libya,
Tunisia, Egypt and Malaysia."
Saudi Arabia's policy towards non-
Wahhabi forms of religious
expression has been described as religious apartheid. Mohammad
Taqi writes that
The Saudi regime is also acutely aware that, in the final analysis,
the Shiite grievances are not merely doctrinal issues but stem from
socioeconomic deprivation, as a result of religious repression and
political marginalization bordering on apartheid.
In January 2016,
Saudi Arabia executed the prominent Shiite cleric
Sheikh Nimr, who had called for pro-democracy demonstrations, along
with 47 other Saudi citizens sentenced by the Specialized Criminal
Court on terrorism charges.
Since May 2017 in response to protests against the
government, the predominantly
Shia town of
Al-Awamiyah has been put
under full siege by the Saudi military. Residents are not allowed to
enter or leave, and military indiscriminately shells the neighborhoods
with airstrikes, mortar and artillery fire along with
snipers shooting residents. Dozens of Shia
civilians were killed, includinga a three year old and a two
year-old children. The
Saudi government claims it is fighting
terrorists in al-Awamiyah.
Residents also reported soldiers shooting at homes, cars and everyone
During the crackdown the
Saudi government demolished several
historical sites and many other buildings and houses in
On July 26, 2017, Saudi authorities began refusing to give emergency
services to wounded civilians.
Saudi Arabia has also not provided
humanitarian help to trapped citizens of Awamiyah.
In August 2017, it was reported that the
Saudi government demolished
488 buildings in Awamiyah. This demolition came from a siege of the
city by the Saudi government, as it continued to try to prevent the
citizens of the city from gaining their rights.
20,000 residents were forced to flee from their homes to
Quran Council and two cousins of executed Nimr
al-Nimr were also killed by Saudi security forces in
Persecution of Hazara people
Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL
Shia Rights Watch. Retrieved 11 December 2012.
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