By Raji Unnikrishnan , Posted on » Friday, November 21, 2014
SUNNI clerics have taken out adverts in Arabic newspapers saying that it is a religious duty for Bahrainis to vote.
Some have likened it to a fatwa (religious edict), particularly since the clerics describe a boycott of the polls as a violation of Sharia law.
The ad contains the signatures of 25 prominent clerics and includes verses from the Quran, which are provided as “evidence” that Muslims are obliged to take part in the electoral process.
Signatories include National Unity Assembly (NUA) president Dr Shaikh Abdullatif Al Mahmood, Shaikh Adnan Al Qattan, Shaikh Juma Al Dossary, Shaikh Abdurahman Al Fadhel and Dr Shaikh Faisal Al Ghurair.
They also accuse those trying to intimidate voters of indirectly infringing on people’s rights.
The High Elections Committee last month instructed against religion being used or exploited to support election or serve political interests.
Al Karama Society, which is among eight civil organisations monitoring the polls, said the advert was not considered a violation.
“Bahrainis in general are religious and conservative and are always keen to know how the Sharia law explains their actions,” said society president Ahmed Al Malki.
“This is a statement which explains why the participation in election is important and how boycott is not helpful.
“They are not forcing anyone, but suggesting, which is an answer to the public’s queries about the religious aspects of a boycott.”
However, Al Fateh Youth Coalition spokesman Yacoub Al Slaise said the clerics’ statement was “not necessary”.
“The Bahrain Constitution is clear on the democratic process and there was no need for a religious point of view to be circulated,” he told the GDN.
“Such a statement, which has the recipes of a ‘fatwa’, affects the process.
“However, this cannot be compared to the propaganda of clerics like Shaikh Isa Qassim in past elections, where Al Wefaq candidates were promoted during religious sermons.
“We have had sermons in mosques that highlighted the social aspects of the elections, which are also positive.”