Witness – Searching for reforms in King Abdullah’s Saudi Arabia

March 24, 2011
(Saudi King Abdullah address the nation from his office at the Royal Palace in Riyadh March 18, 2011. Saudi King Abdullah announced on Friday billions of dollars in handouts for his people and boosted his security apparatus in a renewed effort to shield the world's top oil exporter from unrest rocking the Arab world. REUTERS/Saudi Press Agency)

(Saudi King Abdullah address the nation from his office at the Royal Palace in Riyadh March 18, 2011/Saudi Press Agency)

Saudi Shi’ite protests simmer as Bahrain conflict rages

March 21, 2011
saudi protest

(Protesters demand the release of prisoners they say are held without trial, in Saudi Arabia's eastern Gulf coast town of Qatif March 11, 2011/Stringer)

Bahrain declares martial law, Sunni-Shi’ite tensions flair

March 15, 2011

(Protesters near the Saudi Embassy in Manama, Bahrain, March 15, 2011/Hamad I Mohammed )

Top Algerian Salafist’s fatwa says unrest is un-Islamic

March 15, 2011

(A Salafist sheikh consults Islamic literature in Algiers, August 2, 2010/Louafi Larbi )

Saudis want more science in religion-heavy education

February 10, 2011
saudi ed 1

(Secondary students sit for an exam in Riyadh June 15, 2008/Fahad Shadeed)

Saudi teenager Abdulrahman Saeed lives in one of the richest countries in the world, but his prospects are poor, he blames his education, and it’s not a situation that looks like changing soon. “There is not enough in our curriculum,” says Saeed, 16, who goes to an all-male state school in the Red Sea port of Jeddah. “It is just theoretical teaching, and there is no practice or guidance to prepare us for the job market.”

U.N. restores gay reference to violence measure

December 22, 2010

united nations (Photo: United Nations headquarters in New York, July 31, 2008/Brendan McDermid)

The United States has succeeded in getting the United Nations to restore a reference to killings due to sexual orientation that had been deleted from a resolution condemning unjustified executions.

Iraqi Shi’ites mark Ashura without incident, Saudis scuffle in Medina

December 19, 2010

ashura (Photo: Pilgrims gather between Imam Abbas and Imam Hussein shrines to mark Ashura in Kerbala, December 17, 2010/Mushtaq Muhammad)

More than two million Shi’ite pilgrims in Iraq’s holy city of Kerbala marked Ashura, commemorating the slaying of the Prophet Mohammad’s grandson Imam Hussein at the battle of Kerbala in 680, with no major violence reported amid tight security. But Saudi security forces dispersed crowds of Shi’ite and Sunni Muslims after scuffles broke out in the holy city of Medina.

Saudi Shi’ites mark Ashura festival in anxious mood

December 16, 2010

ashura (Photos above and below: Saudi Shi’ite Muslims mark Ashura in Qatif, December 16, 2010/Zaki Ghawas)

Like their Shi’ite brethren across the Middle East, Hussein and his Saudi friends marked the mourning day of Ashura on Thursday, their mood tinged with worry over their future in the strict Sunni Muslim kingdom. Hundreds of black-clad Shi’ites in the small Gulf town of Qatif, in Saudi Arabia’s oil-rich Eastern Province, rose early to join once-forbidden processions to mark the slaying in 680 of Prophet Mohammad’s grandson, Imam Hussein.

Algeria targets Salafist books in battle with hardline Islam

November 25, 2010

algeria salafi (Photo: Sheikh Chemseddine Bouroubi, a well-known traditional Algerian imam, reads a religious book at a Salafist stand at a book fair in Algiers October 29, 2010/Zohra Bensemra)

Algeria is cracking down on imports of books preaching the ultra-conservative Salafist branch of Islam, officials and industry insiders say, in a step aimed at reining in the ideology’s growing influence.

Saudi Arabia less rigid with Muslims during haj

November 18, 2010

haj (Photo: Haj pilgrims arrive to cast stones at pillars symbolising Satan in Mena, November 16, 2010/Mohammed Salem)

Saudi Arabia’s religious police keep such a low profile during the haj, it’s hard to imagine that you are in Islam’s holiest city.