Saudi Arabia executed Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, perhaps Saudi Arabia’s most famous Shi‘ite scholar and a man who has professed non-violence even as urging Shi‘ites to protest in order to achieve basic rights and equality, reinforces the fact that religious persecution is alive and well in the 21st Century. The ideology that led to Nimr’s beheading isn’t that different than that which drives the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh) in its bloodlust against Shi‘ites and non-Muslims.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, a sectarian warrior in his own right, nevertheless sought to seize the high road rhetorically, tweeting:
I hereby condemn #SheikhNimr’s execution & send my condolences to his family & Muslim world. This act violates human rights & Islamic values
Well, if it’s not obvious from my unequivocal condemnation of the execution on C-Span’s “Washington Journal” yesterday, I agree that there was no justification for the murder of Sheikh Nimr. That said, if Rouhani was sincere, he might consider why it is that the regime for which he serves as president imprisons Baha’i men, women, and children simply because they are Baha’i’s. He might question — because Secretary of State John Kerry and his team did not appear to have done so with any seriousness during negotiations — why the regime over which he presides has targeted Iranian Christians, such as Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor. Then there’s the case of the missing Jews, an episode the New York Times ignores as it seeks to raise money off its Iran reporting. And if human rights matter, he might ask why the rate of Iranian executions in 2015 was almost an order of magnitude greater than that of Saudi Arabia, which had approximately 150.
Should Saudi Arabia be condemned? Absolutely. Should the farce of Saudi Arabia’s ascension to any international human rights body end? Yes. Should groups like Human Rights Watch that raised funds from Saudi Arabia return that money or donate it to a worthy charity that supports religious freedom? Certainly. But let’s not believe that just because Saudi Arabia revealed its true character, that Iran has any ground for moral preening. It’s time to call out Iran’s hypocrisy and work non-stop to release its imprisoned religious figures before they suffer the same fate as Nimr.