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Vigil for cruise boat tragedy victims sparks controversy

A candlelit vigil, held to pay tribute to the victims of the Al Dana boat tragedy, has sparked a controversy in Bahrain after Salafist MP Shaikh Adel Al Mouawda condemned it as a peculiar activity that is not condoned by Islam.

  • By Habib Toumi, Bureau Chief
  • Published: 00:00 April 9, 2006
  • Gulf News

Manama: A candlelit vigil, held to pay tribute to the victims of the Al Dana boat tragedy, has sparked a controversy in Bahrain after Salafist MP Shaikh Adel Al Mouawda condemned it as a peculiar activity that is not condoned by Islam.

"The practice of holding a candlelit vigil is totally inappropriate and must be boycotted by all Muslims because it is not related in any way with Muslim traditions," Al Mouawda said in a press statement.

"I sincerely wonder who benefits from throwing flowers in the sea or lighting candles. There is no such thing in Islam and we hate to see Muslims blindly imitating Westerners in making largely ceremonial tributes to the dead. Whatever money is spent on floral tributes to the dead should be given to living people who would use it for their benefit," he said.

But Al Mouawda's statement was rejected by the Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society (BHRWS), the watchdog that organised the candlelit vigil on Thursday evening as a mark of respect to the 58 victims of the maritime tragedy.

"We did not do anything that was against religion especially that Islam is a religion of tolerance and compassion," said Faisal Fouladh, founder-member of BHRWS regional and international relations .

"The public tribute is not an unhealthy innovation as some people have said, but a compassionate attitude that helps people appreciate how tolerant and inclusive Islam is, particularly that our religion is being relentlessly savaged by anti-Muslims in several countries," he said.

Salafists preach an austere application of Islam that calls for a full acceptance of God's will without question, the rejection of tribute ceremonies for the dead and modest funerals.

In her address at the memorial service, BHRWS General-Secretary Houda Nonoo, the first Jewish woman to head a human rights society in Bahrain, said the thoughts of all the people in Bahrain were with the families of the victims.

"Our thoughts are with all the families that have lost their loved ones. We pray that God will ease your sufferings and give you the strength to cope during this difficult period," she said as people lit candles.

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