Hindu Vivek Kendra
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They say Sunnis from Australia attacked the men and threatened to rape the women upon learning they were Shias.

Author: Niraj Warikoo, Detroit Free Press
Publication: Usatoday.com
Date: October 22, 2013
URL: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/21/detroit-muslims-hajj-attack/3147385/

A Detroit group visiting Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim pilgrimage said they were attacked and threatened with death last week by a group of Sunni men from Australia because they are Shias, a minority sect within Islam.

One of the members of the group was strangled until his face turned blue and women in the group were threatened with rape, according to people who witnessed the attack last week. They allege that authorities in Saudi Arabia did not take their complaints seriously and deleted a video one of them had made of the incident.

A U.S. State Department official told the Free Press on Monday: "We are concerned by reports that a group of U.S. citizens was attacked ... at a campsite for hajj pilgrims located outside of Mecca. We take these reports seriously and are committed to the protection of U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad."

The Embassy of Saudi Arabia did not return a reporter's calls or an e-mail seeking comment. The State Department official said the hajj and interior ministries in Saudi Arabia "have confirmed that they are investigating" the incident.

The Michigan Shias, led by Imam Hassan Al-Qazwini of Dearborn, Mich., the spiritual leader of metro Detroit's biggest mosque, were in Saudi Arabia on hajj, the Muslim pilgrimage that all observant Muslims are required to take at least once in their life if they're able to. The group included three women from the Amen family who were featured in the reality TV show All-American Muslim.

While Shias from metro Detroit have reported being harassed before on hajj, last week's incident was much more extreme and frightening, members of the group told the Free Press.

The attack occurred Wednesday evening as some members of the group walked into a tent in Mina, a city in Saudi Arabia where pilgrims are required to spend a night to fulfill the requirements of hajj. The tent was for pilgrims from the U.S., Australia and European countries.

The Shias said they were confronted by a large group of men they later learned were Lebanese-Australians who belong to a Sunni group known as Salafis.

The Salafis asked one of the Shia men if he was Shia, recalled Seyed Mothafar Al-Qazwini, a nephew of Imam Al-Qazwini. "He responded 'yes.' He was immediately attacked by three men, one grabbing him in a choke hold, the others punching him in the face."

Al-Qazwini said the leader of the Salafis then shouted "Kill them all. Kill the Shia."

Suehaila Amen said the attackers also yelled "kafir" at the Shias, an insult that means "infidel" or "non-Muslim."

Some of the Sunnis then ran to the women's tents, telling them "if they do not leave in 15 minutes, they will rape them all," Al-Qazwini said.

Amen, an activist in Dearborn, confirmed Al-Qazwini's account, saying: "The attack on us in Mina was terrifying."

The Shia men managed to free the man being strangled and fled the tent area with the help of the group leader, Hassan Sobh of Dearborn, Al-Qazwini and Amen said.

Amen praised Sobh for his actions, calling him a hero. He "got our men out of harm's way as we were outnumbered" and "got his women safely away."

Amen and Al-Qazwini criticized the lack of action from Saudi police on the scene, saying that they initially expressed interest, but then did nothing and deleted a video recording made of the incident. Al-Qazwini said they had difficulty getting a response from U.S. Embassy officials they contacted after the incident.
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