Citizens for Bahrain asked a range of Bahrainis across different parts of the country what they thought of the new law banning clerics from membership of political societies or any kind of direct involvement in politics.
Most Bahrainis were very supportive of the new law and only a couple of those interviewed saw the involvement of clerics in politics as a good thing. Most people felt that the participation of Sunni and Shia clerics in political issues had increased sectarian tensions and led to an undue level of influence for ideological agendas.
A range of the views expressed are included below.
Citizens for Bahrain’s reporting about this new law can be found at the link here.
“A violation of their human rights”
“Religion and politics are interlinked and we cannot separate the two, hence we should not ban clerics from being involved in political life. Especially in a Muslim nation that follows modernised Sharia law, many of our laws are based on Islamic Sharia and clerics are a major part of promoting these laws through their religious work,” said Khalid, age 36, from Riffa.
“Denying religious clerics the right to be a part of any political society or to be involved in politics is a violation of their human rights. Religious clerics are equal to other and should have equal rights as any other Bahraini to run for parliamentary elections and to be involved with any political society,” said Ali, age 30, from Saar.
“Much more conservative than our government”
“It is about time for Bahrain to implement such a law that bans clerics from being involved in politics. Clerics have played a big role in the sectarian divide in the country by using their religious platforms for preaching hate and serving political agendas,” said Sara, age 28, from Manama.
“I believe that religious people should not be involved in politics whatsoever. If we call for democracy we can’t have our political movements led by religious clerics who are much more conservative than our government, we do need a non- religious political movement that fights for democracy. It simply doesn’t make sense to call for democracy while wearing a turban or a short thobe and a long beard (the typical image of Shia/Sunni cleric), as democracy has nothing to do with imposing religion and this stands against the concept of democracy,” said Manal, age 36, from Budaiya.
“Their involvement does more harm than good”
“If religious men keep being involved in politics than this paves the way for two extremes, the Sunni and Shia extreme try to impose their ideology on a population that is used to living in some sort of a secular system, where all religions are respected and people have the right to practice their basic freedoms under the constitution. We truly hope that religious clerics stay away from politics as their involvement does more harm than good,” said Ahmed 40, from Muharraq.
“The new proposed law does not necessarily deny every religious figure from being involved in politics. On the contrary in gives them the choice to either preach or become politicians. It seems like a very fair law to many of us. You cannot mix religion with politics within the current circumstances in Bahrain and such a law will certainly serve the nation as a whole on the long run,” said Samar, age 28, from Saar.
“Politicians usually fail as clerics, and clerics fail as politicians”
“The case is that politicians usually fail as clerics, and clerics fail as politicians in Bahrain. Hence the proposed law will build in a proper system that regulates the way Bahraini society and politics function. This is a huge step for Bahrain and it certainly protects our religion or sects from being abused by some clerics to reach their political goals,” said Fatima 31, Isa Town.
“This should be viewed as a major step towards democratizing Bahrain further rather than being criticized by some as a bad move. We haven’t seen any good example of a democratic society led by Sunni or Shia clerics. One is always viewed as a threat to the other unfortunately and that takes away from the principles of peaceful democracy. This is how things work, to have a proper democracy, religious clerics should not be involved in leading political blocs whereas they need to pave the way for those who are more moderate with no religious and sectarian agendas” – Abdullah 38, Riffa.
“One of the very few things ever proposed that I strongly agree with”
“The question is why should clerics be involved in politics, clerics should promote peace, coexistence and tolerance instead of engaging in political speeches and dividing our country. I usually tend to disagree with many government policies and legislation proposed by the Parliament and Shura Council; yet I believe that this is one of the very few things ever proposed that I strongly agree with” – Hassan 34, Manama.
“Clerics should have their respect within the society, their involvement in politics has put them under fire by many and discredited their work. This law will protect them more than any other Bahraini” – Mariam 27, Isa Town
“Once again we have some sensible measures put in place to help the reform process and prevent religious extremism in Bahrain, and what does the international media do? It completely ignores it,” said Manal age 32, from Jasra.