Sheikh Hassan al Saffar Interview on al-Dalowa Massacre
Okaz Newspaper - 11 / 12 / 2014 - 9:18 am

Despite heinousness of the attack on aldalwah which aimed to stir conflict between Sunnis and Shias, the reactions were disappointing for the terrorists, how do you see national unity after this incident?

Al-Ahsa’s tragic incident awakens the feeling of national unity among people who truly care about security and stability of the state. Intellectuals and religious scholars from various regions of Saudi Arabia issued statements to express their rejection and denouncing of such terrorist actions which reflects an image of coherence. This attack makes people realize the importance of unity and national cohesion and the seriousness of terrorist takfiri groups on Saudi Arabia.

How would you describe the feelings of the bereaved families and the popular solidarity after the crime?

Most of the victims were children and one of them was an orphan and the only male in his family. The attack was unexpected, especially in al-Ahsa which is known of coexistence throughout the history, wherepeople used to commemorate Ashoura under normal secure conditions annually.

People believe that what happened is predestination; also the initiatives of the Minister of Interior, the Governor of Eastern Province and other officials in the state as well as the national sympathy have a positive impact in alleviating this distress.

Al-Ahsa is known of coexistence between its components, what are the principles of this unique harmony?

Tolerance is a natural state in environments characterized by diversity and pluralism where Sunnis and Shias communicate and get to know each other closely, not through stereotypes. In al-Ahsa, some Sunnis attend husseiniyas “Shia religious halls” in social events and participate in religious sermons; therefore they are not misled by rumors about Ashura.

Sunnis and Shias in al-Ahsa realize that they are not differing from other citizens except in some beliefs and jurisprudential issues.  Differences occurs even within the same sect whether Sunnis or Shias.

We would like to know the nature of the meetings between Sunni and Shiite scholars in Al-Ahsa and how such meetings serve the state?

Meetings were more frequent in the past as I have been told, it seems that some contemporary scholars affected by militant trends and even the moderate ones take into account the surrounding atmosphere but there are some Sunnis and Shia scholars seek to enhance communication initiatives and preserve tolerance.

I hope that this painful incident becomes a motivation for Sunnis and Shias clerics to intensify communications since they are the most influential segment on the society.

How do you view the role of the King Abdul-Aziz Center for National Dialogue in the next phase?

I think that King Abdul-Aziz Center avoids addressing serious issues such as religious diversity and sectarianism which threatens the future of the state. Yet it has significant efforts in enhancing dialogue and communications initiatives.

Sheikh Abdul-Aziz Al-Sheikh, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia and the head of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and issuing Fatwas, denounced al-Dalowa attack, what does this statement mean for Shias?

The position of the Council of Senior Scholars requires addressing challenges which threaten security and stability of the state. We praise the initiative of Senior Scholars which confirmed the seriousness of the states’ agencies in combating terrorism and incitement calls.

Security forces arrested perpetrators in a record time and some of them sacrificed themselves to protect the state, what do you say for martyrs and their families?

Raising images of the officers in the funeral which was attended by more than 250 thousand people as well as Shia delegation who went to Qassim to condole officers’ families, indicates the appreciation of citizens for such scarifications.

What is the required role from Sunni and Shia scholars at this stage?

Religious scholars have to educate people about the importance of national unity and to emphasize that all citizens are equal in rights and duties. Citizens have to respect each other and the relationship between them should base on mutual understanding.

As a Shia cleric what do you say to Shias in these circumstances?

I say to Sunnis and Shias that we are all partner in the state. Saudi Arabia is facing serious challenges where there are a group of terrorists aim to destabilize security of the state as what was announced recently by one of the terrorist leaders. Therefore we have to eliminate sectarian conflicts and incitement speeches in order to preserve security and stability   of our country.

What are the reasons behind the emergence of Takfiri groups?

There are many reasons led to the emergence of extreme group including misinterpretation of Islamic texts and some political forces that aim to stir conflicts and take the power in the name of religion.