Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Saudi sect presses for equality

From Betsy Hiel of The Pittsburg Tribune-Review

The Shia had Saudi religious leaders in the 1950s, he says, before the government "closed the religious schools and banned religious books, so people went to Najaf (in Iraq) and Qom (in Iran) to study." "You cannot just kick the Shia out of the state," says Al-Shayab. "They have to be part of the system." Al-Saif, the political consultant, believes the government should legalize Shia religious schools to educate new Shia leaders. "Instead of pushing the Shia to the Iranian way, try to attract them," he says. "You have all the tools, the legitimacy, the money and the willingness of the majority of the Shia." Still, he says, real change will never occur without a more democratic system that includes all Saudis. Al-Ramadan, the agricultural company CEO, agrees. "There is no chance of any serious change unless there is a change from a religious government to a civil government," he says.

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