Section III. Status of Societal Respect for Religious Freedom
Unlike in previous years, there were no reports of so-called religious vigilantes and/or “volunteers” unaffiliated with the CPVPV harassing and assaulting citizens and foreigners.
Instances of prejudice and discrimination against Shia Muslims continued to occur in private sector employment. Social media provided an outlet for citizens to discuss current events and religious issues, which sometimes included making disparaging remarks about members of various religious groups or “sects.” In addition, terms like “rejectionists,” which Shia considered insulting, were commonly found in public discourse.
NGOs reported that Nakhawala Shia faced more discriminatory practices than did Twelvers in the Eastern Province. Discrimination in employment and education was based on the Nakhawala surname “al-Nakhly,” which roughly translates as “farmers” and identifies their minority status and group.
While discussion of sensitive topics on social media was frequent, according to Freedom House, “self-censorship [on social media] remained prevalent when discussing topics such as politics, religion, or the royal family.”
During the year a study by Human Rights Watch documented the use of social media by prominent clerics and others to demean Shia Muslims using derogatory terms or by attacking their beliefs and practices.
Anti-Semitic comments by journalists, academics, and clerics appeared in the media. For example, according to press reports, Mohammed al-Arefe, a religious leader based in Saudi Arabia with a large following on social media, delivered repeated anti-Semitic speeches, according to Politico.