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Saudi Shi'ites Are Getting Nervous

Donna Abu-Nasr writes at AP:

QATIF, Saudi Arabia -- Like many Saudi Shi'ites, Abdullah Abdul-Hussein is worried that if the government does not end anti-Shi'ite tirades by influential Sunni clerics, the sectarian conflict ravaging Iraq and threatening Lebanon could spread to his country.

"This rhetoric provokes trouble," said Abdul-Hussein, referring to recent statements from key members in Saudi Arabia's clerical establishment that have urged Sunnis around the world to expel Shi'ites from their lands.

"We are all citizens of the same country. The government should not allow such excess," said the 37-year-old merchant, expressing a worry shared by many in this mainly Shi'ite town.

Fears of sectarian tensions go beyond this sleepy oasis in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, where the kingdom's Shi'ite minority is centered. The bloodshed in Iraq and turmoil in Lebanon have enflamed the Shi'ite-Sunni divide across the Middle East and in much of the Islamic world.

The tensions are more palpable as Shi'ites mark Ashoura, one of their holiest days, today . It commemorates the seventh-century death of Imam Hussein in a battle with the leaders of what would become the mainstream Sunni branch of Islam. His death began the schism between Sunnis and Shi'ites...