Ever since sectarian violence between Shiâ€™a and Sunnis broke out in Iraq, as a result of the U.S. Allied invasion in 2003, other Gulf States have increasingly worried that perhaps the hostility could spill over into their own nations. This past week, those worries came to a head as several Sunni Muslim bookshops were vandalized in the city of Hawally, in Kuwait.
Prior to the visit of U.S. President George W. Bush on Jan. 18th, a dozen Sunni bookshops were ransacked. The vandals pelted the shops with stones to break the glass of the storefronts and then threw rotten eggs at innumerable targets. Several books were also destroyed or defaced. Similar attacks on another 20 Sunni bookshops took place the following Friday and Saturday. The mode of operation was the same. Nothing was taken but several items were destroyed. However, the vandals did leave behind their fingerprints, which are currently being processed by the Kuwait Criminal Investigations Department (CID). Security personnel are confident that along with the fingerprints and witness statements that the culprits will be apprehended soon.
Kuwaiti lawmakers have denounced the attacks on the bookshops and said that they are a blatant attempt to stir up sectarian strife between Sunnis and Shiâ€™a in Kuwait. The timing could not be more relevant as this is now the month of Muharram, which is a holy time for both Sunnis and Shiâ€™a. In a statement released to local media outlets, Interior Minister Sheikh Jaber Al-Khaled Al Sabah said the vandals are trying to â€œâ€¦undermine security and provoke strife. The authorities are not sparing any efforts to stop this.â€
Both Shiâ€™a and Sunni MPâ€™s have called for a united front to preserve the peaceful coexistence that has always existed between Shiâ€™a and Sunnis in Kuwait. They have also demanded that the culprits be caught and punished to the full extent of the law to send the message that such acts of terror will not be tolerated in Kuwait.
On Tuesday, the National Islamic Alliance (NIA), which is the largest political governing body for Shiâ€™a in Kuwait, publicly condemned the attacks and reiterated that both Sunnis and Shiâ€™a must come together to ward off sectarian violence spreading in this tiny Gulf state. In a statement, the NIA said, â€œThe attack raises a number of question marks about its goals and the desperate attempt to create a rift among Kuwaitis. This crime comes as part of a plot to incite sectarian rift in the Muslim Ummah after the miserable failure of the Ummahâ€™s enemies in instigating divisions among Muslims in many places.â€
Kuwait has been a model of peaceful sectarian coexistence for years. Both Sunnis and Shiâ€™a are treated equally under the law without bias. Authorities will stomp out sectarian violence in Kuwait as soon as it rears its ugly head with the majority of Muslim residents in Kuwait agreeing that, irrespective of sect, all Muslims are equal under the auspices of Allah Almighty and that He alone can judge between us.