Inside The Kingdom - 14 / 6 / 2010 - 7:47 am

"Inside the Kingdom" is a distinctive book by Robert Lacey, a British historian and a journalist, who lived in Saudi Arabia for several years. In his book, the author explores the recent history of the state, and sheds lights on various Saudi issues.

He indicates human rights status, women's conditions, social structure and religious extremism in Saudi Arabia. The writer provides insider details about the family of Saud, and gives a close picture to the character of King Abdullah Al Saud. Lacey, also, includes, in his book, a chapter about Shiite citizens in Saudi Arabia.

He presents his visit to a small village in Qatif, in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia during the anniversary of Ashura which is the tenth day of Muharram on which Shiites revives the memory of Imam Husain's martyrdom; the grandson of Prophet Mohammad. He describes some of Shiites' rituals and practices in this season such as gathering in halls to listen to religious lectures.

The writer refers to the region's petroleum wealth, and how Shiites were "the only native-born Saudis then willing to carry out modern, industrial-style manual work" at the Arabian American Oil Company (Aramco).

He says that Shiites in Saudi Arabia are considered the "miserably misguided sect whose loyalties lay with "the Persian"- the Shia in Iran". He mentions that some Sunnis had fabricated and spread stories about Shiites having unnatural practices. Wahhabi clerics, also, described Shiites as Rafada or "rejectionist", and offended them with harmful calls.

Lacey explains how the Shiite sect developed, how Shiites believe that Ali, Prophet Mohammad's cousin, was the true successor, and how he "had been repeatedly excluded from succession by sharp practice". He indicates that, according to Shiites, Ali was the first Shiite martyr, then, refers to the martyrdom of Husain bin Ali, Ali's son and the grandson of Prophet Mohammad, with his few brave companions at the tenth of Muharram; Ashura, for standing against the injustice.

He reviews the causes that made the followers of Mohammad Ibn AbdulWahhab consider Shiites as polytheists and infidels who deserve the sentence of death. He, also, mentions that Shiites were repeatedly attacked and they are still a persecuted religious minority.

Saudi Shiites suffered from oppression and marginalization for a long time, and that resulted in the emergence of the Islamic Revolution Organization (IRO) in the mid 1970s which was led by Sheikh Hasan Alsaffar; a prominent Shiite spiritual leader in Qatif region. The author explains how Alsaffar had "praised the Bravery of Husayn's determined resistance to discrimination and the unfair distribution of wealth". The Shiite dissidents fought for their rights, and for that they suffered terribly.

• Book: "Inside the Kingdom"
• Author: Robert Lacey
• Publisher: Viking Penguin
• Pages: 404
• Publishing Year: first edition in 2009