Bahrain Accused of Blacklisting Shi’a Books

Rights movement says Bahraini government has blacklisted Lebanese publishers at an upcoming book fair.

By BY RACHELLE KLIGER / THE MEDIA LINE
February 9, 2010 16:51
2 minute read.
book censorship

book censorship. (photo credit: courtesy)

Ahmad Kabalan, a representative of the Kabalan shipping company told The Media Line in an email that there was “no blacklist.” 

Al-Singace said it was likely the company did not want to draw unwanted attention. He said it is part of a political maneuver to stifle religious freedom in Bahrain, especially against Shi’ites, who constitute a majority in the Gulf country, but suffer from discrimination. 

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 “The list of targeted publishers includes those publishing Shi’a books in particular,” Al-Singace said. “Those confiscated in the 2004 exhibition were mostly Shi’a books and some of them are historic, covering different historic periods in Bahrain, and they were considered subversive…We assume this is part of a systematic attack on the Shi’as religious freedoms.”

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Though Bahrain’s leadership is Sunni, Shi’ites have a 60-70% majority among the population.

“The authorities are trying to change that situation,” Al-Singace said. “[The government] is importing tens of thousands of Sunnis from certain backgrounds – Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Baluchistan of Pakistan - in order to change the demography by converting the majority Shi’a into a minority and controlling the output of any election process.”

Tensions between Sunnis and Shi’ites, and reports of discrimination against Shi’ites in Bahrain are rife. 

According to the US State Department’s most recent report on religious freedom in Bahrain, Shi'a Muslims comprise the majority of the poor citizen population in Bahrain and have a higher unemployment rate than Sunni Muslims who dominate in government positions, the managerial ranks of the civil service, the military and the security forces. 

“Shi'as were under-represented in the Ministry of Education in both the leadership and in the ranks of head teachers who teach Islamic studies and supervise and mentor other teachers,” the 2009 report said. 

“At the secondary school level, out of more than a dozen Islamic studies head teachers, only two were Shi'a. Although there were many Islamic studies teachers who were Shi'a, school authorities discouraged them from introducing content about Shi'a traditions and practices and instructed them to follow the curriculum.”

The report said the Ministry of Information continued to ignore requests by the government-run TV station to broadcast Friday sermons live from Shi'a mosques, as it did from Sunni mosques.

“Although there were exceptions, the Sunni Muslim citizen minority enjoyed favored status,” it concluded.


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