Bahrain: a Symbol of Religious Freedoms
Every year during the event of Ashoura, Bahrain clearly shows
that it is the centre of religious freedom, not only to its own
residents but to the citizens of the surrounding Gulf countries.
|The Minister of Justice Visit a Shia Centre.
Thousands of people come from various Gulf States to Bahrain
in order to participate in the Ashoura religious celebration. Huge
demonstrations take place during this event, with the active participation
and facilitation of the Bahraini Government, which donates both
food and money to the Shia centres (maatams)1. According to the
Shia Endowment statistics of 2009, nearly 1100 Shia maatams were
officially registered in Bahrain. Other statistics claim that the
number could be as high as 5000, including unregistered ones.
Abdullah Saif states in his book (Al Maatam in Bahrain) that
in 1994 there were more than 3500 maatams for men, excluding women’s
During the Islamic month of Muharram, Bahrain’s image changes
due to the increasing number of maatams, to the extent that some
would refer to it as the Karbala of the Gulf. This is due to the
fact that tens of thousands of Gulf citizens make a pilgrimage to
it in order practice their religious rituals freely, unlike any
other Gulf country.
People will differ in assessing the political and economic situation
in Bahrain, but everyone agrees that religious freedom is a historic
characteristic of Bahrain.
The Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs, Sheikh Khalid bin
Ali Al Khalifa stressed that religious freedoms have always been
a priority and protecting and caring for religious freedoms is one
of the main obligations of the State. The Minister also stressed
that the commemoration of Ashura gets special attention in the form
of continuous follow-ups and advice, in order to provide the necessary
support and services.
The Minister of Justice visited a number of maatams in Manama
and attended the opening of the Imam Hussein Clinic where he said:
“the annual commemoration of the martyrdom of Imam Hussein (may
Allah be pleased with him) on the 10th of Muharram, is a time to
remember and learn noble values. The values of faith, sacrifice,
and great ethics are all embodied in Imam Hussein’s character, which
merit preservation in honour of this great man, who the Prophet
Mohammad (pbuh) described him by saying: “Hussein is from me and
I am from Hussein. Allah loves those who love Hussein.” (Al Khaleej
The Minister also stressed that: “the unity of the Islamic nation
is the main goal, which the noble Prophet, his progeny and companions
sacrificed their lives for. Their blood was shed in order to strengthen
the Ummah and preserve its pride and honour”. He also added: “We
in Bahrain (thanks to Allah) were and still are the best example
for co-existence, unity and harmony between citizens. The commemoration
of Ashura during all these years among other occasions, promote
unity and harmony in the country. He called for taking advantage
of religious and national occasions, in order to promote national
unity and values of forgiveness between the diverse Bahraini communities.
Ashura in December 2010 provided ample evidence that Bahrain
is a diverse country unlike any other in the Gulf. It is a country
that promotes freedom and religious tolerance.
1 Maatams mean the Shia Centres for the Commemoration of Imam
Al-Hussain, the son of Ali Ibn Abi Taleb and who was killed and
beheaded in the Battle of Karbala in 680. Al-Hussain is considered
by all the Shia as a martyr who fought tyranny and the ruling of
the Umayyad Caliphate established following the death of the final
Rashidun (Wise) Caliph, Ali Ibn Abi Taleb. The mother of Imam Al-Hussain
is Fatima al-Zahra, daughter of Prophet Mohamed. The anniversary
of the death of Imam Al-Hussain is called ’Ashura (“tenth” day of
Muharram) and is a day of mourning for the Shia Muslims.