Lessons from killing of Hussein in 7th century define lives, ambitions of Saudi Shiites today

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QATIF, Saudi Arabia -- Fawzia al-Hani dropped her black veil over her face and wept softly on Sunday, enveloping herself in the sadness of the last days of Imam Hussein, grandson of the prophet Muhammad and Shiite Islam's most tragic and revered martyr.

The women in the packed community center commemorating Ashura, the anniversary of Hussein's death in A.D. 680, watched on a projection screen as a turbaned cleric described how Hussein set out with a small band of family and followers to confront a large army, then was filled with anguish when his favorite son was slaughtered before he himself was killed.

Beside the cleric, men huddled on the floor with their heads bowed, dabbing at their eyes with tissues.

To many of the region's historically persecuted Shiites, the death of Hussein in what is now Karbala, Iraq, the event that triggered the schism between Sunnis and Shiites, remains central to their lives. Shiite belief that Hussein and his descendants were robbed of their rightful succession as rulers of the Islamic world heightens their sense of persecution and victimization...

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