Sayyed Majeed Al-Mashaal, The Turban which Turned into a Shroud

2016-08-25 - 9:28 p

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): "The new leadership is young, if compared to the old one; however, one of the local observers said that although this expresses a change in strategies, they both continue to work on the same political objectives. Among these objectives are opposing the Status Law, and supporting Al-Wefaq Society's campaign against sectarian persecution and the naturalization of Sunni foreigners. Al-Mashaal and Al-Ghuraify met the former president (Sheikh Isa Qassim) on January 3, 2009, to discuss their plan and future activities."

This was a paragraph of a cable sent by the US embassy in Manama, number "MANAMA29_a09" on January 15, 2009, concerning the new elections of the Ulama Islamic Council (the highest Shiite institution in Bahrain that was dissolved in 2014).

Until late 2008, many people had never heard about Sayyed Majeed Al-Mashaal because he was, after returning from the Iranian city of Qom, occupied with preaching and practicing his guiding and counseling role as an Imam of a mosque in Salmabad and a religious lecturer, distant from any politics.

However, running in the elections of the central board of the Ulama Islamic Council and succeeding Sheikh Isa Qassim as president put him in the spotlight. According to the cable, it seems that the US embassy didn't know much about Al-Mashaal's character.

The preacher of Al-Khaif Mosque (currently detained), Sheikh Isa Al-Moamen says that Sayyed Al-Mashaal "reached high ranks in his religious studies and was very vigorous in his social activism. In the terms of guiding, Al-Mashaal has practiced his role since his Islamic study days. He used to go to different areas in Iran to practice his guiding and counseling role. He even traveled outside Iran for this purpose."

"When he became the head of the Ulama Islamic council, I was with him in the administration for many years. I found him working enthusiastically and tirelessly. Al-Mashaal was a very tolerant person," he added.

However, heading the Ulama Islamic Council made Al-Mashaal bear numerous responsibilities, which made him gain popularity on the Bahraini level. These responsibilities; however, were doubled since the eruption of February 2011 uprising, when Al-Mashaal appeared as a rebellious cleric who delivers sermons in the martyrs' funeral processions and mobilizes for peaceful marches.

Al-Mashaal became more prominent following the arrest of opposition leader, Sheikh Ali Salman, where he played an important role in mobilizing people to gather outside Sheikh Salman's house every day. He also led the protests demanding Sheikh Salman's release.

Al-Mashaal at Sheikh Isa Qassim's House

The most significant role Al-Mashaal played was leading the popular sit-in outside Sheikh Isa Qassim's house on June 20, after the authorities revoked his citizenship. Al-Mashaal headed near Sheikh Qassim's house, took off his religious garment and wore a shroud, stressing that Bahrainis don't want to live in a homeland without Ayatollah Qassim.

Al-Mashaal was not only delivering a speech, but rather announcing a strong decision. He rallied for 30 days outside Sheikh Qassim's house. He then started to visit his family and return before night to sleep near Sheikh Qassim's house.

Al-Mashaal only returned 3 times to his home since the revocation of Sheikh Qassim's citizenship, until he was arrested on July 30, 2016. He even canceled a religious travel for his family and him to Iran. He insisted that his family goes without him. His family couldn't even bid farewell to him because he was in Diraz.

Al-Mashaal's Arrest Conditions

On the morning of July 30, 2016, Al-Mashaal was heading for the third time to his home to bring some necessities. He arrived at 6 a.m., one of his sons was home. One hour later, two youth civilians knocked at the door and asked to see the Sayyed. The son thought that these are his father's students. He returned to tell his father that two youths want to see him. Al-Mashaal went out and was surprised to see dozens of armored vehicles surrounding his home. Security forces approached to arrest him. He asked them if he could return home to change his clothes and inform his family but they refused. They took him to an unknown location and his family knew nothing about his whereabouts until 3 days later.

On August 3, Al-Mashaal made the first phone call to his family and told them about his arrest. His family were able to visit him on August 9 in the presence of 3 policemen to monitor the conversation. He couldn't tell his family about the way he was treated or even the nature of the questions raised during interrogation.

This is not the first time Al-Mashaal gets harassed by the authorities. He had been already summoned several times over his sermons and many charges were brought against him. Al-Mashaal was a real nuisance to the authorities that put him on the top of to-be-exiled clerics list.

Glimpse at Sayyed Majeed Al-Mashaal's Background

Al-Mashaal was born in 1963. He finished his secondary classes with a very good rate in the scientific domain in 1981. He then left immediately to the Islamic Republic of Iran, specifically the city of Qom, where he received his religious studies.

He settled for eighteen years in Iran, until he returned to Bahrain in November 1999.

In November 2008, he ran in the elections of the Ulama Islamic council and garnered the highest votes. He became the second president of the council after Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim. Al-Mashaal remained the president of the council in the second term. The authorities; however, dissolved it before the end of his term.

Arabic Version



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