Resistance in the Hejaz: How Sheikh al-Nimr’s courage cowed al-Saud

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SHAFAQNA – Few were those who could have ever envisioned that al-Saud Royals could, or would, carry out Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr’s death sentence, such was, and still is, his renown.

Arguably one of the staunchest critics of the Saudi monarchy, Sheikh al-Nimr rose a titan against Riyadh’s abominable repression in 2011, when revolution came to be spoken on the lips of Arabia – a promise of change long-overdue, and an imperious yearning for political self-determination.

A man of peace and tolerance this one Saudi cleric offered from his pulpit a future in multi-colours – rooted not in exclusion and ostracization, but pluralism, respect and social justice. A son of Qatif (Eastern province of Saudi Arabia), Sheikh al-Nimr was a devout Muslim. But for his allegiance was to Imam Ali and Prophet Muhammad’s progeny (the Prophet of Islam) his faith was shunned as an apostasy against Wahhabism – the acetic and violent religious cult professed by Riyadh, the very ideology which gave birth to the evil we know today as: ISIL, Boko Haram, al-Nusra, al-Qaeda …

A charismatic figure, Sheikh al-Nimr came to embody Saudi Arabia’s democratic aspirations: his words were that of his people, his cries those of freedom and his stand that of justice. And because his name shone a light of hope under the darkened sky of Saudi oppression, Riyadh sought to forever silence his voice,imagining that the movement he awoken would die with his last breath. But there are truths which once unveil can never be contained – such was the power of a son of Qatif against the desert of Nejd.

But if Sheikh al-Nimr’s name has commanded respect and admiration across the Islamic world, for al-Saud, he remained a dangerous dissident, a threat to the security of the kingdom, in that he refused to bow to tyranny, and accept injustice on account the mighty imagine themselves above the multitude.

With a dignity which only a few exceptional men have ever demonstrated, Sheikh al-Nimr transformed his people’s oppression into a cry of freedom so powerful that it struck fear in the hearts of al-Saud Royals. In the face of absolute determination, and unwavering political resolve, a cleric reinvented himself a liberation movement.

It was fear on January 2, 2016 which guided King Salman’s hand over Sheikh al-Nimr death sentence order. It was fear again which spoke to late King Abdullah when he called upon his security forces in July 2012 to brutally arrest Sheikh al-Nimr.

It is fear ultimately which will claim and collapse the House of Saud.

And while Saudis officials have been eager to vilify Sheikh al-Nimr, painting him as a dangerous criminal, a Shia renegade, few were those who fell for such manipulations. Much to al-Saud dismay al-Nimr’s fame grew stronger following his unjust detention. Within days, his name became a regional rallying cry – Resistance had a new face…

His death today very much felt like a betrayal, another ignominy committed against a people whose only crime has been to demand political emancipation. Arzu Merali from the Islamic Human Rights Commission condemned the Sheikh’s execution in the strongest of terms.
In exclusive comments to the American Herald she noted, “Sheikh al-Nimr has paid the ultimate price for standing against injustice. This injustice which is al-Saud is not only oppressing minorities in Saudi Arabia but also bombing innocent civilians in Yemen. Al Saud Royals have promoted takfirism across the region, spreading chaos and bloodshed throughout … While his execution remains a vile act of tyranny; it betrays as well the vulnerability of Riyadh regime.”
And indeed, before a cleric’s injunctions of peace, Riyadh felt so terrified it sent its armed battalions. When the sons of Qatif said “Peace and just reforms”, al-Saud replied with the bite of its whip, raining death to assert its grip on power.

But the death of Sheikh al-Nimr did not bring peace of mind to al-Saud … Now that the man has left, now that he stands beyond the reach of Riyadh’s blade, this son of Qatif has become Resistance’s new coat of arm – his words now have moved the hearts and the minds of millions across the Islamic world. Today it is not Qatif which is rising alone against the tyranny of Nejd but people across Arabia. United in their rejection of oppression, united by the pain they have all endured under the boot of al-Saud, communities have joined together – beyond ethnicity and beyond faith. Today the real face of terror has been laid bare.

And so Riyadh withdrew behind its towers, calling on its vassals to follow in their wake to demonstrate power when in fact there is only gripping fear.

Just as it imprisoned Sheikh al-Nimr, the kingdom seeks now to ostracize Iran, and seal out those who dare call just retribution – NOT violence, but just retribution!

Only Resistance cannot be contained or bargained with, Resistance can only be tamed by ending tyranny.

Dr John Andrew, the author of The Covenants Of The Prophet Muhammad With The Christians Of The World, referred to Sheikh al-Nimr’s execution as sickening. He said: “The killing of non-violent political dissidents is prohibited in Islam. The execution of Shaykh al-Nimr represents another nail in the coffin of Saudi despotism. A nation that kills its own citizens, merely because they voice socio-political, economic and religious concerns, lacks all legitimacy, and has no place in the community of civilized nations that uphold civil and human rights.”

Seyyed Mohsen al-Khoei, from the Al-Khoei Foundation issued a statement in which he too deplored the Sheikh’s death as a despicable act of injustice. It read: “We are stunned and appalled by the execution of the young activists and Sheikh Al-Nimr. At a time when sectarian tensions are increasing throughout the Middle East and spreading across the world, executions should not be the solution to protests and calls for political reform from minorities. Such decisions will only increase tensions, fuel sectarian conflicts and further encourage terrorist groups such as Daesh. This is also counterproductive to the efforts of organisations and scholars that continue to engage in dialogue to defuse sectarian tensions and achieve peace.

Al-Khoei Foundation calls for respect of human rights and the sanctity of human life.”

As the world has risen in condemnation, when even western capitals have felt compelled to speak in disgust before such senseless bloodshed, Riyadh maintains still the “religious legitimacy” of its stand.

By Catherine Shakdam – This article appeared first in the American Herald Tribune.

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