Hate speeches shock Bahrain mosques
A study, called Incitement Speech 2013, showed that 608 cases of sectarianism were registered during Friday sermons by religious leaders of both sects, constituting 65 per cent of the total number of 935 cases.
Another 125 cases (13.4pc) of anonymous radical groups using religious speech to promote terror acts were also recorded.
The violations were registered between January and December last year by a 12-member team of experts, headed by prominent rights activist Salman Nasser, who said mosques in Bahrain have been become a “breeding ground” for illegal activities.
“This study covered mosques in different parts of the country of both the sects and how religious leaders and political societies used them to incite hatred against fellow citizens,” he told the GDN.
“It was all done in the name of religion as the Friday sermons openly spread hatred or were political in nature to inflammatory speeches and statements made using these worshipping places.”
The study also recorded 81 cases (8.7pc) in which “critical statements” were made in mosques or ma’atams by leaders of political societies, 61 cases (6.5pc) of societies issuing statements in houses of worship and 60 cases (6.4pc) of political activities being held in religious institutes.
“We did not name any Sunni or Shi’ite cleric who misused their positions to fuel sectarianism during the Friday sermon as it could lead to further repercussions especially at a time when Bahrain is getting ready for the 2014 elections,” said Mr Nasser.
He said Sunni clerics blamed Al Wefaq National Islamic Society for Bahrain’s political crisis during sermons and even discussed the situations in Iraq and Syria.
“These are all political views that should not be raised in the Friday sermon, while some Sunni clerics even called for revoking of Bahraini passports of all those involved in terror acts,” he explained.
“On the other hand, the Shi’ite clerics called on their supporters to back protests called by opposition groups and other political issues that strictly should not be discussed in a mosque, especially during the Friday sermon.
“We wanted to highlight that despite calls by the leadership to keep politics away from religious places, mosques are increasingly becoming a breeding ground to incite and divide the citizens.”
He said the team monitored Friday sermons, political activities, statements by political and religious figures and social media.
“We registered a total of 935 cases and let me tell you these are the ones that have clearly crossed the red line with extreme views spread that did not respect the sanctity of the place,” said Mr Nasser.
“There could have been more cases as it is not possible for us to monitor every mosque or ma’atam in the country, but we tried our best to cover those places that attract maximum number of worshippers.”
He said they plan to share details of the study with government agencies concerned to develop a strategy to distance politics from religion.
The GDN earlier reported that Shi’ite cleric Shaikh Isa Qassim, the spiritual leader of the Bahraini opposition, urged his congregation to “crush policemen” in January 2012.
Following the statement, masked thugs waged attacks on policemen, many of whom were critically injured, in some parts of the country.
Former MP and Sunni cleric Shaikh Jassim Al Saeedi has also been repeatedly accused of making sectarian remarks during Friday sermons. Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa in March warned mosques against inciting hatred or sowing divisions among people or sects, and stressed the need to respect diversity and pluralism.
Earlier this month three clerics were ordered to stop preaching in mosques amidst allegations they incited sectarian hate.
Sunni cleric Dr Adel Hassan Al Hamad and Shi’ite clerics Shaikh Mohammed Mansi and Shaikh Kamel Al Hashemi were given orders issued by the ministry banning them from preaching.