October 11, 2015: In what has become an annual headline, a hardline cleric in Bahrain has alerted Iranian state media to what he states is deliberate provocation by the government of Bahrain. This is in spite of the fact that the government observes the Ashura holiday and provides security for celebrants rituals and prayers. The cleric claims security forces are discriminating against Bahrain’s large Shi’ite community by removing banners and flags commemorating the martyrdom of one of the early Muslim leaders.
According to Ahlul Bayt News Agency – which provides direct reports with in-depth coverage from Shi’ite parties in Bahrain – Sheikh Sanqour of the Imam Al-Sadiq Mosque in Diraz, criticized the authorities for “tearing and taking down Ashura Banners and flags in a manner that contradicts with the sanctity of Imam Hussein.”
The preacher claimed that such actions are aimed at provoking the anger and emotions of Shi’ite Bahrainis deeming saying it is unjustifiable and offends the emotions of a major portion of the Bahraini population.
“The slogans, banners and signs of mourning during Ashura shouldn’t offend any of the Muslims and security forces, for Imam Hussein is an Imam (master) of all Muslims and is the Prophet’s grandson. The slogans of his uprising, his words and the words of Ahlul Bayt (Prophet’s family) which are raised in gatherings and on the streets only reflect the values and principles of Islam. The black flags and banners that cover the villages and towns are only an expression of the mourning and grief over the Prophet’s grandson and the master of youth in heaven, so none of this should provoke any Muslim,” Sheikh Sanqour stressed.
“This repeated act of tearing and taking down some Ashura banners and flags in a manner that contradicts with the sanctity of Imam Hussein is considered a provocation and offence to the emotions of a major portion of this country’s people and also contradicts with the right to freedom of practicing religious rituals guaranteed by the constitution,” he further stated.
For their part the Bahraini government’s officials have repeatedly stated that the only time banners or flags are removed is when they do not meet within the legal guidelines for posting such things on public property, such as in the case where they may block views or be hung from public facilities.
Ashura immortalizes the martyrdom of Imam Hussein in the 7th Century in Karbala (Iraq) by public displays of mourning, re-enactments of the death of Hussein, and the practice of self-flagellation called tatbir, which involves processions of men armed with various implements used to cut their skin and draw blood. Although tatbir is officially outlawed by Ayatollah Khamenei in Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, it is still practiced and Bahrainis have carried this tradition on in communities all over the island with people of all faiths coming out to witness it.