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.
The proposal for working with the authorities on a strategy to help distance the domains of politics and religion is also a vital measure. We have seen the harmful results in recent years when these sectors have become blurred. Religion is not well-served when the tenets of that faith are abused to score political points or to demonize political opponents.
The Justice Ministry has been active in demonstrating its seriousness in taking measures against preachers who spread hatred and intolerance. This will always be a difficult issue to grasp and inevitably taking action will anger certain segments of society.
However, the unity and tolerant nature of Bahrain’s society is at stake, so we hope that the authorities will not be deterred from taking action.