Saudi religious police accused of beating up Shi’ites


Tension is high in the region because of sectarian violence between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in Iraq, and many Saudis are among the foreign fighters with Al Qaeda suspected of carrying out suicide bomb attacks against Iraq’s majority Shi’ites.

Saudi Arabia, which sees itself as the leader of Sunni Islam, lost to Iraq last week in the final of the Asian Cup soccer competition, provoking some anti-Shi’ite comments in Islamist Internet chat rooms.

A report on, a key news source among Saudi Arabia’s minority Shi’ite Muslims, said religious police surrounded a group of Iraqi pilgrims inside the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Sunday.

They called them "infidels", then began hitting them, it said.

Makkah mayor said he had not heard about the incident but that problems were common as hundreds of thousands of pilgrims visit the holy city in the intense summer heat.

"Maybe they did something to annoy people in the mosque," Mayor Osama Al Bar said. "I don’t think it’s because they are Shi’ites or Iraqis. There are about 500,000 people there, it’s very crowded."

The group, which included sons of Iraqi politicians and British and US nationals, was held in detention for up to 24 hours and some needed medical treatment, the Web site said.

Iraqi parliamentarian Ridda Jawad Al Takki said the group, which included his son, had been singled out for being Shi’ite.

"They were beaten up because they were holding Shi’ite-style prayers," he said, adding his son has been admitted to hospital in Makkah.

Saudi Arabia hosts millions of pilgrims year-round in the holy cities of Makkah and in Madinah, where religious police are more tolerant to Muslims of different backgrounds.

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