Anti-Shiism in Bahrain
2016-09-10 - 3:11 am
Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): Bahrain has lost the battle, failing to convince the world that it is not Anti-Shiite, as it is now known to be the country that persecutes its Shia citizens. In the latest report published by the US Department of State on religious freedoms in August 2016, the State Department used the term "Anti-Shia" about five times to describe the practices against the Muslim Shiites in the country.
As for the United Nations, they called the situation taking place in the island kingdom as "persecution of Shias," in a statement issued on August 16, 2016 and signed by five UN human rights experts. The UN highlighted "systematic harassment of the Shia population by the authorities in Bahrain." Both "persecution of Shias" and "Anti-Shiism" are expressions that have similar meanings, and resorting to the use of such expressions is not incidental.
The truth is that since 2011, the term "Anti-Shiism" has been introduced to dictionaries to refer to the persecution of Shiites, prejudice against or hatred of Shia Muslims based on their religion and heritage.
Merriam-Webster, one of America's leading and most-trusted provider of language information for more than 150 years, defines Anti-Shi'ism as "prejudice and hatred toward the Shia branch of Islam or toward Shia Muslims."
A definition can also be found in the British Collins dictionary, as well as the Urban Dictionary, which goes on to specify the reasons behind practicing such persecution, noting that it stems from "systematic and board hatred towards the faith and its people; acts depicting such hatred; propensity for such sentiments."
The Bahraini Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa; however, responded to the UN experts' statement, which condemned the targeting of the Shia population, with denial that the authorities often resort to, making a mockery of themselves. "The Government doesn't target its citizens but with goodness and only works for their interest," he claimed. Yet what will the government do to the english dictionaries! What will it do to all the pages online about Anti-Shiism, and on the persecution of Shia in Bahrain.
The Bahraini Government has a long bumpy road ahead of it that goes beyond the entrances of the poor Diraz village west of the capital Manama, where security forces have been deployed to besiege the area and control the movements of its residents over the past two months, since the authorities revoked the citizenship of the Shia spiritual leader in the country Ayatollah Sheikh Isa Qassim.
This road is full of obstacles intertwined to the worlds of language, dictionaries and the world wide web, as the authorities' hate campaigns and practices targeting Shiite Muslims are now associated with the term Anti-Shiism, exactly as "Anti-Semitism".
The US State Department in its latest report on religious freedoms shed light on several examples of Anti-Shiism. It stated that "anti-Shia commentary appeared in private broadcasts and publications and on social media, including allegations against leaders of the Wifaq of supporting terrorism." The report noted that human rights activists say the Shia population experience discrimination in access to government employment and educational opportunities.
It added that Shia leaders said preference was given to Sunni citizens for educational scholarships, employment as teachers, and employment in sensitive government positions. The US State Department report further read that the Bahraini Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs threatened clerics with suspension if they "espoused violence," and in June the authorities suspended Salafist preacher Jassim Saeedi, a former MP, who previously had been suspended for anti-Shia commentary, but then reinstated him in July. He continued to make anti-Shia commentary via social media.
The report stressed that anti-Shia commentary continued to appear in the broadcasts and publications of news media which regularly supported government policies. Columnists for Al Watan referred to protesters as "thugs" or "terrorists." Some social media accounts repeated allegations against the Wifaq leadership, including Sheikhs Isa Qassim and Ali Salman, of support for terrorism. Comments often referred to the Shia political opposition as "Iranian subordinates," "coup plotters," and "Safavids." In the Hidd neighborhood, a petition was circulated in local mosques and advertised on a billboard discouraging the hiring of Shia teachers, calling them "traitors."
For their part, the UN human rights experts highlighted that Shia in Bahrain are "clearly being targeted on the basis of their religion." They further stated that a wide range of charges are brought against the Shias including ‘illegal gathering', ‘inciting hatred against the regime', ‘money laundering' and ‘acts of terrorism' in relation to their peaceful gatherings and religious congregations and peaceful expression of their beliefs, views and dissenting opinions, which the experts described as "groundless accusations used to hide a deliberate targeting of Shias in the country."
Thus, the authorities in Bahrain have a long journey of denial- it's; however, very naive of them to assign PR offices and pro-government journalists and newspapers to do the dirty work for them.
Over the past two months, the security authorities summoned and detained around 87 Shiite clerics, began prosecuting 12 Shiite clerics over their peaceful stances and views, closed down almost all of the remaining Shiite institutions in the country like the Islamic Ulama Council, Al-Tawiya Islamic Society, and Al-Risala Islamic Society, and also dissolved both Amal and Al-Wefaq political societies. The authorities forced as well the Ikhaa Society, which represents the Shia Ajam in Bahrain, to dissolve itself.
Also, the island kingdom's judicial authorities, controlled by the ruling Al Khalifa family, criminalized the Shiite religious obligation and ritual of Khums (alms), deeming it an act of "money laundering", in order to convict the Shia spiritual leader in the country. Since 2011, nearly 4,000 Bahrainis, the majority of which are Shia, including 300 children were thrown behind bars, because of their political views.
If this isn't considered a practical example of Anti-Shiism, then what is?
Discrimination against Shia Muslims in Bahrain is severe and systematic enough for a number of sources like Time magazine to have used the term "apartheid" in describing it. The Christian Science Monitor also describes Bahrain as practising "a form of sectarian apartheid by not allowing Shiites to hold key government posts or serve in the police or military. In fact, the security forces are staffed by Sunnis from Syria, Pakistan, and Baluchistan who also get fast-tracked to Bahraini citizenship, much to the displeasure of the indigenous Shiite population."
The world will not wait for Bahrain to be convinced that its practices against the Shia citizens are Anti-Shiite. In Washington, there are some who sensed this dangerous game played by the Bahraini ruling family, describing their actions as a serious threat to "regional security".
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