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Ministry warns against abusing Ashura ceremonies

Legal steps taken against delivering politicised sermons

Gulf News

Dubai: Bahrain government has warned managers of maatams (Shiite community centres) against allowing incitement during ceremonies.

“Several incidents have occurred during Ashura events that mixed religion and politics with the aim of incitement,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement.“As a result, a number of managers of the maatams where these incidents took place were issued warnings and were asked to protect the religious spirit of the occasion by keeping politics out of such events.”

The ministry said that legal steps had been taken against those who delivered politicised sermons and chanted in a way that provoked the crowds. They had been referred to the Public Prosecution, it said in a statement.

“We stress the importance of maintaining the integrity of religious ceremonies and places of worship and reiterate that the use of such sites and activities as tools to divisively politicise the participants must stop,” it said.

“While freedom of religion is respected in Bahrain, it [religion] is not an iron curtain behind which politically explosive activities can be used to incite violence,” the ministry said.

Bahrain said on Sunday that it has taken legal action against some Shiite worshippers accused of mixing anti-government protests with annual religious ceremonies.

Crackdowns during the Shiite commemorations building toward Ashura — marking a seventh century battle in Islam’s early decades — could cause further tensions between Shiite religious leaders and the Gulf nation’s government.

Opposition groups and others, including the US State Department, have strongly denounced a government order last month to outlaw protest gatherings.

A government statement on Sunday said “a number” of Shiite religious figures had been referred to the public prosecutor for delivering political sermons or leading anti-government chants.