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New York Times: Saudiís Lonely, Costly Bid for Sunni-Shiite Equality

Author: Robert F. Worth
March 17, 2014

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"Even the most educated and cosmopolitan Saudis often look down on Shiites, who make up about 10 percent of the Saudi population, as closet Iranians or undesirables."

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia — MIKHLIF AL-SHAMMARI has been jailed repeatedly, declared an infidel, ruined financially and shot four times — by his own son — all for this: He believes his fellow Sunni Muslims should treat Shiites as equals.

In a Middle East torn by deepening sectarian hatred, that is a very unusual conviction. He has made it a kind of crusade for eight years now, visiting and praying with prominent Shiites and defending them in print, at enormous personal cost. The government of this deeply conservative kingdom continues to file new accusations against him, under charges like "annoying other people" and "consorting with dissidents."

But Mr. Shammari, a gaunt 58-year-old with an aquiline nose and a jaunty smile, is not easily discouraged. "I'm not against my government or my religion, but things must be corrected," he said in a furtive interview in a hotel lobby (he has been banned from talking with the news media). "We must all encourage human rights and stop the violence between Sunni and Shia."

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