Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): During his visit to the Vatican in May 2014, the Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa offered Pope Francis a miniature made out of gold as a gift. The said miniature is a replica of what he said would be the largest church to be built in the Arabian Peninsula.
The golden church is placed between two other structures, one of Al-Khamis Mosque and the other of the Ahmad Al-Fateh, in an attempt to show the Bahraini government more tolerant in a region torn with sectarian-fueled wars.
Did the king want to say that Al-Khamis Mosque (which has two minarets) represents the Shiite sect, Al-Fateh Mosque represents the Sunni sect and the church represents the Christian faith? Or did he have another view on the matter?
It is to mention that Ahmad Al-Fateh, is Ahmad bin Mohammad Al Khalifa who conquered Bahrain, which was resided by the Shia (1783). The ruling family commemorates his name as Al-Fateh, a religious term used by Muslims to describe those who accomplish conquests and take over new non-Muslim territories.
Can the "conquest" mentality promote for ideas like tolerance and religious freedoms? The King, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (grandson of Al-Fateh) most probably, means by this is that Al-Khamis Mosque is an archeological mosque in the island he inherited from his grandfather, rather than being a symbol of the Shia sect that remained for hundreds of years under the administration of its endowments directorate (waqf).
What proves the bad intentions of the king is when the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, headed by one of the Al Khalifa family members (May bint Mohammad Al Khalifa), seized the mosque several years after attempts to falsify its history through the official state curricula claiming that the mosque was built in the era of Caliph Omar bin Abdulaziz.
The slips of the king's tongue also appeared in the tweets of his royal court minister's son Nasser bin Khalid bin Ahmad Al Khalifa. With the expansion of the ruling family's ambitions to erase the Shiite identity of the mosque, he rejected "granting Al-Khamis Mosque to the Jaffaria Endowments (Waqf)," before demanding to attribute it to the Sunni endowments and naming it after Caliphate Omar bin Abdulaziz.
There is no need to stress that the mosque that was built in the era of the Uyunid dynasty era (before Al Khalifa entered the country) was under the authority of the Jaffaria Endowments Directorate. The mosque was not on the ruling family's greedy list before King Hamad Al Khalifa came to power in 1999 with a plot to eradicate the Shia sect.
A historical document revealed 70 years ago an order signed by the advisor of the Bahraini government to the Jaffaria Endowments to "repair the the Souk (market) structure (...) that as you know was the oldest famous historical archaeological building in Bahrain," according to the advisor.
That was not the last document to be revealed. Another one signed by PM Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa (August 31, 1968) unveiled a pledge to the Jaffaria Endowments chairman to repair the mosque and wall of the cemetery.
However, the annexed cemetery (Abu Anbara) was not also spared of stealing. The Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities issued a decree a couple of weeks ago seizing the cemetery, considering it a national archeological site, in addition to other Shiite mosques and sites.
Despite its desperate struggle to defend its decision to put these mosques and cemeteries on the national archeological list, claiming it's a move that guarantees "protecting these sites and maintaining the historical values they hold (...) the (decision) is not considered an interference in the affairs of the Jaffaria Endowments." The authority, however, refused to admit the right of the endowments to manage them.
The authority closed Al-Khamis Mosque and changed it to an archeological site, in an attempt to hide its religious identity. The authorities prevent Shiites from performing prayers or any other religious ritual at this mosque. A well-informed source said that the authorities assigned a "Bengali" citizen to be responsible for the mosque's affairs.
Aiming at rewriting new history, the authority brought a British professor, Timothy Insoll, from Manchester University (who has previously visited Bahrain) to excavate for antiquities or ruins in the mosque and cemetery in order to produce a historical study that will, of course, lead to hypotheses the ruling family wants.
The king will need to exert more pressure in order to erase the Shiite identity of the mosque; the oldest mosque in Bahrain that the authorities allege was only introduced to Islam when the his grandfather Al-Fateh invaded the country. He may also need more efforts to deny that the cemetery, the oldest Islamic graveyard that embraces more than 700 prominent Shiite clerics, is Shiite. The king hates them, not because they called for democracy, but because their tombs refute the allegations of the king in fabricating history and say loud and clear: We have been in Bahrain hundreds of years before your family came. We were born as clerics and died as martyrs, yet you came as invaders and will die as dictators.