Saudi Shoura Council forms anti-racism committee

The Shoura Council has established an anti-racism committee in response to reported inhumane treatment toward eight Shiites in Al-Ahsa

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The Shoura Council has established an anti-racism committee in response to reported inhumane treatment toward eight Shiites in Al-Ahsa, Al-Hayat reported.

The matter was brought to the Council’s attention after the incident, although it is not clear whom the perpetrators were.

It has looked into the situation and decided to initiate a campaign to combat racism, tribal apartheid and sectarianism. Shoura member Mohammad Reda Nasrallah headed the campaign.

He said a committee has been established under the Interior Ministry. Other ministries and government directorates such as the Justice Ministry and the Bureau of Investigation and Public Prosecution are also involved.

He said: “The committee studies racial apartheid in the kingdom’s society and among individuals.

“The committee currently has six members including a Shariah expert and a legal expert.

“This is to help provide a holistic legal system taking into account the historical experiences of developed countries and the kingdom’s social traditions.”

Fellow Shoura member Zuhair al-Harthy witnessed racism in the kingdom when he used to work at the Human Rights Commission.

“When I first suggested the issue to the Council six years ago, there wasn’t a stable system to adopt a set of rules against racism.

“If you were to set a legal system, you need to be clear and precise about it.

“Racism had to be defined, whether it was verbal, mental or physical, in order to recognize when it would threaten national unity.”

Harthy also added that there is a possibility for a criminal system to penalize perpetrators of racism, as is the case in Arab and European countries.

The penalty would vary between fines or five years imprisonment.

He said: “Therefore, accusations against racism must be taken seriously and no punishment should be issued without evidence.

“We need a clear and thorough law and not general phrases such as ‘anyone who threatens national unity will be subjected to…’

“I have requested a study into tribal and regional apartheid, as one would not find this in international law.

“We need a well-studied and sustainable law and not merely a snap reaction to what happened in Al-Ahsa.”

Two other Shoura members, Saad Mariq and Andulaziz Al-Otaishan, and a citizen have also raised the issue at the Council during the past three years.

Nasrallah then said that the suggestions proposed earlier by some Shoura members regarding the topic were rejected by the Council’s Committee of Islamic Affairs.

This new campaign will be handled by another specialized committee as it is classified as a legal matter.

He said: “Sectarianism and racism have become a real social threat. “That is why we are addressing it holistically.

“I think the education sector should also get involved and any textbook or curriculum with racist or derogatory terms against a sect or a skin color must be edited.”

It has been half a century since the United Nations issued the anti-apartheid agreement signed by many developed and developing countries including Arab nations such as Jordan, Emirates, and Egypt in 1963.

Some of these countries have set penal laws against racism consisting of imprisonment of up to three years and a minimum fine of SR50. The Kingdom finally signed the agreement in 1997.

This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014.

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