Who is Ayatollah Isa Qassim?

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Isa Qassim, February 2004: “The Iranian Revolution is a blessed revolution that toppled one of the Islamic world’s despots–the despot most supportive of the Great Devil, the United States, as the great Imam al-Khomeini named it. A revolution that made America kneel in Iran, and cut the hand that tried to defile Islam… and stopped it from looting and plundering the wealth of the good Muslim Iranian people.”

Early studies

Isa Qassim was born in 1937 to a fisherman in Diraz and attended Budaiya primary school, followed by a secondary school in Manama. However, because of the Iranian origins of Qassim’s family, he didn’t obtain Bahraini citizenship until 1962, and it was several years after that that his own offspring were granted Bahraini citizenship. Shaikh Qassim worked as a teacher in Budaya primary school where he remained until 1962.

Isa Qassim also pursued Islamic studies in Naim under Shaikh Abdulhussain al-Hilli and Sayyid Alawi al-Ghuraifi. In 1962 Qassim travelled to Iraq for religious studies in Al-Najaf under a range of Shia scholars including Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr (father of controversial cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).  

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Reform - ABC of civil society

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The benefits of civil society for Bahrain and for you

Bahrain’s reform programme

When King Hamad came to the throne in 1999, he embarked on an ambitious programme of reforms, manifested in his 2001 constitution; the National Action Charter. As well as providing for a two-chamber Parliament; an amnesty for detained or exiled political figures; and an end to the State Security Law; King Hamad’s reforms also helped create the environment for a vibrant and active civil society.

This occurred through constitutional provisions protecting the rights and freedoms of individuals and also through legislation legalizing and regulating the status of civil society organizations. 

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Reviewing a year for human rights

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The opening of the 32nd session of the UN Human Rights Council is a good moment to look back over a year of developments concerning human rights in Bahrain. As the below report demonstrates, there have been important developments such as parliamentary approval of CEDAW and domestic violence legislation and important work by the Ombudsman’s Office and other human rights institutions. However, there have also been challenges and setbacks.

June 2015

Ombudsman’s Office report: The Ombudsman reported a 375% increase in the number of complaints it handled, with a growing number of cases being referred to the courts and other legal bodies for further action. The office’s work has been recognized by the prestigious Challiot Prize for promoting human rights.

Religious freedom report: The report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom praised the Bahrain authorities for “demonstrable progress in rebuilding mosques and religious structures” damaged during the unrest: “The government increased to approximately $8m the amount to rebuild Shi’a mosques and religious structures, nearly twice what it pledged in 2012. It also moved the deadline from 2018 to the end of 2014 to complete the construction of the 30 destroyed structures identified in the BICI report… 14 mosques had been rebuilt, eight by the government and six by the Shi’a community and 13 others were approximately 80-90% complete. The government helped secure legal permits for the six structures built by the Shi’a community.”

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Should Al-Wefaq Islamic Society be closed down?

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The 14 June announcement by the Bahrain Justice Ministry of the closing down of Al-Wefaq Islamic Society quickly gained strong reactions from both those supporting and opposing the decision.

For many Bahrainis, Al-Wefaq is the main entity responsible for stirring up sectarian tensions and fuelling the 2011 unrest. To them, this is a long-overdue move which will silence the clerical figures who have done so much to incite instability and undermine Bahrain internally and externally.

Others view this move against Al-Wefaq Islamic Society in the context of the King’s ratification of a law banning clerics from involvement in politics. Should a movement dominated by clerics have a place in a political system committed to the separation of religion and politics, democratization and a progressive constitution?

Participants in the political process should as a basic prerequisite have a clear national and non-sectarian agenda while not being subject to any form of foreign influence.

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