Bahrain reasserts state control over mosques

Published Date: September 07, 2010 

MANAMA: Bahrain has decided to reassert state control over the kingdom's 
mosques after charging Shiite opposition activists with plotting to overthrow 
the Sunni government, official media reported yesterday. "Regaining control of 
the pulpits so they are not hostage to incompetent politicians or clerics who 
have lost their way... is the starting point for developing a sound religious 
orientation," Crown Prince Salman said in comments carried by the official BNA 
news agency.

Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al-Khalifa said the government would 
ensure that places of worship are run by those who promote "the values of 
tolerance and moderation," BNA said. The two officials' comments came in 
messages addressed to King Hamad on Sunday, a day after prosecutors pressed 
terrorism charges against the Shiite activists, raising tension in the run-up 
to an October 23 general election.

According to a charge sheet released on Saturday, the 23 activists - 10 of them 
prominent opposition figures-stand accused of "undermining national security." 
Two of them, who live in London, are being tried in absentia. Most of the 
suspects are members of Haq-the Movement of Liberties and Democracy-a Shiite 
group which rejected as inadequate reforms intended to put an end to Shiite-led 
unrest that rocked the 35-Island archipelago through the 1990s. Those reforms, 
enshrined in a 2002 charter, converted the emirate into a constitutional 
monarchy but Haq boycotted parliamentary elections in 2006 and intends to do 
the same next month.

The arrests have raised tensions between the government and the mainstream 
Shiite opposition which took part in the 2006 election, winning 17 of the 40 
seats in parliament. Sheikh Ali Salman, leader of the Islamic National Accord 
Association, warned last month that they would "lead to more protests." He 
mocked the authorities' accusations against those arrested saying they could 
not have all belonged to a single secret organization as they had different 
opinions. - AFP 

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