Beware of who you’re championing

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Open message to US Senators and the State Department

A number of US Senators have written to Secretary of State John Kerry demanding a rethink on military sales to Bahrain in the context of the closure of Al-Wefaq Islamic Society and the move to withdraw nationality from Ayatollah Isa Qassim. The State Department also condemned the measures against Isa Qassim, saying that this would "further divert Bahrainis from the path of reform and reconciliation".

The moves against these entities are undoubtedly controversial and have provoked a broad range of reactions. However, US Senators and the State Department should consider a number of factors before speaking out forcefully in support of these elements:

Separating politics from religion

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Quality of life - ABC of civil society

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The benefits of civil society for Bahrain and for you

Why quality of life?

One could argue that the primary role of all civil society organizations is to improve the quality of life of people across society. This either encompasses the work of charities which aim to improve the quality of life of those with special needs and the most vulnerable sectors of society; or clubs which provide entertainment and activities for members to give greater value and purpose to their lives; or societies which lobby government and institutions to better serve the public and help citizens enjoy their rights and freedoms.

Quality of living challenges for Bahrain

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Who is Ayatollah Isa Qassim?

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Isa Qassim, February 2004: “The Iranian Revolution is a blessed revolution that toppled one of the Islamic world’s despots–the despot most supportive of the Great Devil, the United States, as the great Imam al-Khomeini named it. A revolution that made America kneel in Iran, and cut the hand that tried to defile Islam… and stopped it from looting and plundering the wealth of the good Muslim Iranian people.”

Early studies

Isa Qassim was born in 1937 to a fisherman in Diraz and attended Budaiya primary school, followed by a secondary school in Manama. However, because of the Iranian origins of Qassim’s family, he didn’t obtain Bahraini citizenship until 1962, and it was several years after that that his own offspring were granted Bahraini citizenship. Shaikh Qassim worked as a teacher in Budaya primary school where he remained until 1962.

Isa Qassim also pursued Islamic studies in Naim under Shaikh Abdulhussain al-Hilli and Sayyid Alawi al-Ghuraifi. In 1962 Qassim travelled to Iraq for religious studies in Al-Najaf under a range of Shia scholars including Mohammad Baqir al-Sadr (father of controversial cleric Muqtada al-Sadr).  

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Reform - ABC of civil society

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The benefits of civil society for Bahrain and for you

Bahrain’s reform programme

When King Hamad came to the throne in 1999, he embarked on an ambitious programme of reforms, manifested in his 2001 constitution; the National Action Charter. As well as providing for a two-chamber Parliament; an amnesty for detained or exiled political figures; and an end to the State Security Law; King Hamad’s reforms also helped create the environment for a vibrant and active civil society.

This occurred through constitutional provisions protecting the rights and freedoms of individuals and also through legislation legalizing and regulating the status of civil society organizations. 

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