The recently-completed Incitement Speech study is a welcome step for raising awareness of sectarian incitement and religious extremism in Bahrain. However, the study also demonstrates how worryingly widespread and consequently how dangerous this phenomenon has become, both within Sunni and Shia communities.

Many Bahrainis regard religious scholars as being figures to look to for guidance and leadership. Therefore the fact that so many of these figures are abusing this position to spread hatred and discord is certainly a significant reason for why the tensions of the last three years have been so difficult to resolve.

The Mosque is not a suitable place to be preaching political ideologies. Preachers should certainly not be putting forward their personal views on events in Iraq or Syria as if they are giving divine guidance. Furthermore, the pulpit is certainly not the place to be conducting attacks on Bahraini political groups.

It is commendable that the researchers have been careful to conduct research in a balanced manner into violations occurring amongst Bahrain’s various communities. This shows that this is not a transparent attempt to victimize the religious clergy of any particular sect. We hope that action is taken against repeated violators in a similarly balanced manner.

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Misconceptions about Bahrain

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Parliamentary elections

The parliamentary elections which are to be held in November 2014 are a vital opportunity for re-energizing the democratic process; particularly after the 2012 Constitutional Amendments for empowering elected MPs. The opposition’s threat to boycott these elections risks prolonging the political crisis and deepening divisions within society. This is a bad decision for those who want Bahrain to move forward.

Constitutional Monarchy

Most Bahrainis support reform, not revolution. Although there is still much to be achieved, King Hamad has put Bahrain on the path towards a reformed Constitutional Monarchy. Bahrainis today enjoy a wider range of rights and privileges compared to just 10 years ago.

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It is one thing for Sheikh Ali Salman to decide that Al-Wefaq Islamic Society will boycott the Parliamentary elections. It’s his political society, so it’s his choice.

 

However, Sh. Ali Salman and Al-Wefaq are now going a step further and urging their followers to boycott the elections.

There is a double threat to this, because the cleric, exploits his status as both a political and religious leader, so that when he and figures like Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim instruct the Bahraini Shia community not to vote, this is taken by many to be a religious command that cannot be ignored.

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Condemnation - or justification of violence?

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Bahraini opposition parties put out a joint statement,which at first glance appeared to condemn the murder of a policeman in Al-Eker. However, for those who took the time to read the statement, it seemed to in fact be saying something completely different.

First the opposition societies cast doubt on whether or not a policeman had been killed; giving the impression that this death had only “reportedly” been confirmed through “information circulated in the social media”. In actual fact local official sources and global media sources had been reporting on the details of this incident and the identity of the policeman for around 48 hours, before the opposition got round to acknowledging their own “social media sources”.

Instead of any kind of outright acknowledgement that repeated and deliberate attacks against policemen in the line of duty is terrorism; the opposition make several implicit implications that violence is the fault of the police themselves; “including the excessive use of force and collective punishment perpetrated by the police… and repressing of freedoms”.

These repeated allegations that violence is the fault of the police, creates the strong impression that what the opposition wants to say here is that the police deserved this attack.

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