Bahrain Interfaith expresses its astonishment with the inconsistency between the government’s statements and practices with respect to tolerance, coexistence, and religious and cultural pluralism. The Center emphasizes that government officials have presented a series of positions and statements that affirm the government’s commitment to the aforementioned human principles and values, between January 30, 2020 and February 5, 2020, even though its policies and practices on the ground are inconsistent with its positions that are more rhetorical than practical.
The center notes, based on its monitoring exercises, that the World Interfaith Harmony Week announced by the United Nations as being annually observed between February 1 and February 7, has not witnessed any positive practical developments on the official level regarding religious freedom, cultivating tolerance, and religious coexistence. On the contrary, this week has witnessed practices that are inconsistent with these values, and that even perpetuate the bad circumstances in the country, especially in the areas of discrimination, hate speeches, and the absence of the principles and values of equal citizenship. This is particularly manifested in arresting and summoning a number of preachers, clerics, and researchers on ancient religious history in Bahrain – according to the results of the monitoring exercise carried out by the brief report issued by the center at the end of the annual World Interfaith Harmony Week.
In this report the Center highlights the most prominent official statements in which officials in Bahrain provide public statements on matters of coexistence, religious tolerance, and pluralism, on different times and occasions, and at different official levels. These statements are issued at approximate times to, and in concurrence with, formal procedures and practices that are in contradiction with these issuances, which calls for searching for a real mechanism for implementing the commitments of the government of Bahrain with respect to religious and cultural freedom, and for [making it] respect its pledges regarding tolerance, and preventing discrimination and hatred.
In this context, Bahrain Interfaith calls for:
- Agreeing with the government on a formula that guarantees the participation of civil society institutions and NGOs in institutions and centers established by the government in Bahrain, which are concerned with encouraging dialogue, peaceful coexistence and religious tolerance, provided that the civil institutions have a real partnership in managing these institutions in a manner that achieves transparency and independence in the institutions’ performance, and provides them with the chance of submitting objective reports on the religious and cultural situation in the country.
- Providing the right atmosphere for civil organizations, specialized in dialogue conduction and religious tolerance, to work in Bahrain with complete freedom, to contribute to promoting the values of coexistence, pluralism, and tolerance, and to be a basic partner in limiting manifestations, procedures, and policies that are in contradiction with these values.
- Allowing bodies of the United Nations that are concerned with freedoms of belief, culture, and religion, to visit the country, meet with relevant personalities and NGOs, and investigate the actual circumstances of the various religious components in the country, especially the Shiite component that represents the majority of citizens.
Kingdom of Bahrain – February 7, 2020
Monitoring Schedule of official statements around coexistence and pluralism, and procedures in contradiction with them
First: Official statements on coexistence, tolerance, and pluralism: January 27 – February 5, 2020
|Date||Title of Permit||Context of Permit||Content of Permit|
|January 27, 2020||Chairman of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs: Diversity made Bahrain dynamic and active at the scientific, intellectual and social levels||Sheikh Abdul Rahman bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Khalifa, President of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, participated in the works of Al-Azhar International Conference entitled “Innovation in Islamic Thought and Sciences”, held in the city of Cairo under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi.
|From what was stated in the participation of the President of the Council: “Bahrain has always been keen on upholding the method of moderation and tolerance, and its religious, sectarian, and cultural diversity has provided it great dynamism and activity…”|
|January 30, 2020||Assistant Foreign Minister: Bahrain has become an exemplar of openness, peaceful coexistence, and religious freedom||Bahraini Assistant Foreign Minister Abdullah Al-Dossari met in the Foreign Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs with the delegation of the British Charity Commission consisting of attorneys Mr. Neil Diamond and Mrs. Iman Mabrouk.||Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs spoke about “the concrete achievements and efforts of the Kingdom of Bahrain in the areas of tolerance, peaceful coexistence, and other humanitarian initiatives and achievements”|
|January 30, 2020||MP Abdul-Nabi Salman at the meeting of the Federation of Councils of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Councils: an urgent need for an open religious discourse||Representative Abdul Nabi Salman headed the delegation of the Parliamentary Division of Bahrain participating in the 15th session of the Federation of Councils of Member States of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation in Burkina Faso.||Representative Salman said: There is an urgent need to reformulate an open religious discourse targeting young people, and concerned with embedding principles of the Islamic civilization, namely tolerance, acceptance of the other, and openness to the other.|
|February 3, 2020||King Hamad Center for Coexistence in a government meeting with the British: we will continue in the path of cultivating religious tolerance||The meeting was attended by a delegation from the British Charity Commission which is currently visiting Bahrain to measure the extent of openness and peaceful coexistence in the Kingdom, and the availability of places of worship for followers of different religions and sects.||Sheikh Khalid Al Khalifa, President of the King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence, explained that since its establishment, the Center has worked on providing many qualitative programs to cultivate the principles of peaceful coexistence and religious freedoms.|
|February 3, 2020||Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, during his meeting with His Holiness the Pope: Love of tolerance and moderation that characterized by the people of Bahrain strengthens the Kingdom’s civilizational status||Crown Prince, during his tour in Italy, met with His Holiness the Pope and praised the role of the Vatican in promoting peace, tolerance, and religious coexistence.||Crown Prince said that Bahrain is keen on “strengthening friendly relations and cooperation with the Vatican City in a manner that contributes to consecrating the concepts of love and pluralism between nations and peoples, and achieving peace, and stability.”|
|February 4, 2020||Bahraini Ambassador in Washington stresses on Bahrain’s role in promoting openness and religious coexistence||Ambassador Sheikh Abdullah bin Rashid Al Khalifa participated in a seminar hosted and organized by Crown Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Brandeis University in America||The ambassador said that: “Bahraini democracy is living in its best era.”|
|February 5, 2020||Participation of a government delegation (King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence) in the (Round Table) in Washington on Religious Freedom||King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence participated in a representation by the Chairman of its Board of Trustees, Dr. Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, the second vice-chairman of the Board of Trustees, and Mrs. Betsy Matheson, President of ‘This is Bahrain’, in the activities of theInternational Religious Freedom Roundtable (IRF), in the American capital Washington D.C, headed by His Excellency Mr. Sam Brown Buck – USA Ambassador to International Religious Freedom.
|Head of the King Hamad Centre “condemned” in his participation “any practices that target religious freedoms and violate human dignity on basis of race, religion or sect” according to his wording.
Second: Official procedures incompatible with tolerance, harmony, and pluralism
|Date||Procedure||Context and Developments|
|January 23, 2020||Renewing the imprisonment of the famous preacher, Sheikh Abdel Mohsen Mulla Attiah, for 7 days, pending an investigation.||Sheikh Mulla Attiah was repeatedly subjected to similar procedures. His last arrest was on the bridge linking Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on January 22, 2020
|January 23, 2020||Sheikh Ali Rahmah called in for investigation||Sheikh Ali Rahma, a well-known cleric and Imam of Al-Zahra Mosque, and famous for his moral lessons.
|January 30, 2020||Summoning and arresting the researcher on Bahrain’s heritage and religious history Jassim Al Abbas||Jassim Al Abbas was released on February 4, 2020. Al Abbas family is a researcher and author specialized in Bahrain’s heritage and religious history, he has a blog called “The Years of Jreesh” famous in the country as the most specialized in this topic.
|January 30, 2020||Calling Sheikh Ali bin Ahmed Al-Jadhafsi in for investigation, for the second time in a week, on the basis of citing certain clauses of prayer in his religious sermon
|February 4, 2020||Arresting and detaining the Husseini preacher Sheikh Jassim Al-Haddad from the Bahrain International Airport
|February 5, 2020||Renewing the arrest of Al-Khatib Mulla Abdul-Zahra’ Al-Samahiji for 15 days for an investigation||Mulla Abdul-Zahra’ has been arrested since January 14, 2020
|February 6, 2020||Renewal of the arrest of the preacher Qassem Zain Al-Din for 15 days for investigation||Al-Khatib Zain Al-Din was arrested on January 29, 2020
|February 6, 2020||Summoning and arresting Sheikh Mohammad Alryyash|