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Saudi clerics use Twitter, textbooks to spread hate: Human Rights Watch

New York-based watchdog accused religious heads of the country of making derogatory speech against the Shiite minority

AFP | PTI  |  Dubai 

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is condoning against its Shiite minority from the upper echelons of its religious establishment, schoolbooks and social media, Watch said on Tuesday.

Saudi clerics, including those holding official positions, have "vigorously employed" 21st-century tools, like Twitter, to stoke intolerance among millions of followers, the New-York based watchdog said.

Often their words rise to the level of "incitement to hatred or discrimination", it said.

Derogatory statements against made by influential clerics mirror language found in state-sanctioned religious edicts and even children's schoolbooks, which use widely understood terms to castigate Shiite religious beliefs, said.

The watchdog cited numerous examples, including a post in which Al-Sharif Hatem bin Aref al-Awni -- a former member of the government's -- hailed the bombing of a Shiite mosque in Qatif in 2015.

He later removed the post, without explanation.

Anti-Shiite attitudes come from the top.

In September 2016, the current grand mufti of -- the country's highest religious authority -- told Okaz newspaper that Iranians are "not Muslims", researchers found.

They point out that such designations are dangerous in a country where apostasy can be punishable by death.

said against has had "fatal consequences" across the region, employed by groups including the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda as justification for targeting Shiite civilians and religious sites in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.

"Saudi officials immediately condemned these attacks, but they have not acted to stamp out the that supports them," said.

On the contrary, Riyadh had on occasions punished those who attempted to unite Sunnis and Shiites, besides shutting down a committee which was working to unify the Sunni and Shiite lunar calendars.

The considers a country of "particular concern" when it comes to religious persecution, but successive administrations have waived the potential sanctions that come with such a designation.

urged the US, a key Saudi ally, to end the waiver.

First Published: Tue, September 26 2017. 15:38 IST
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