Playing With Fire: Anchor’s Anti-Shia Rant Sparks Controversy

The conservative television channel Wesal is at the heart of another controversy after one of its anchors made statements that some described as divisive and sectarian.

“A message to Awwmiya and those who play with fire: If it was not for orders from the ruler, we would send armies and tribes to eat you,” said host Khaled al-Ghamdi, according to a video uploaded to YouTube. Awwmiya, part of the restive Qatif region in eastern Saudi Arabia, has been a flashpoint for protests by the Shia minority in the country since March 2011.

Qatif-based activist Waleed Sulais said on Twitter that this is a test for the Saudi government to make a stance against those who destroy national unity. “How could someone say something like this and not be brought to justice,” asked Sulais, saying al-Ghamdi’s words constitute “a threat and incitement to kill.”

Saudi Arabia said two weeks ago that it will shut down satellite television channels that threaten national unity or instigate sedition in society, according to al-Watan daily. “National unity is a red line that must not be crossed,” said Abdulaziz Khoja, Minister of Culture and Information. Khoja added that his ministry cannot accept any calls for hatred and division in society.