The little country that everyone forgot about after violent killings two weeks ago are now erased from the collective 15 minute memory, is now back on the map. Religious tensions in Bahrain continue to escalate as can be seen in the following speech by senior Shia cleric Sheik Isa Qassim, who essentially confirmed that there will be no dialogue between the protesters and the government: "Dialogue requires the agreement of two opposite sides that have disagreement and are looking to reach an agreement. Therefore we see no value in requiring us to sit with some groups or parliamentarians who are in total agreement with the government. The opposition delegation will not be representing a sect, a political party, an institution, or a group of parliamentarians; rather they will have the confidence of the people who are raising legitimate demands." So much for attempts to resolve things peacefully. Yet what could be the match that sets off the bomb is the announcement by the Bahrain Defense Force that Mohammed al-Buflasa, a Bahraini who was detained on February 15 after speaking in support of the Pearl Roundabout protesters, will be court-martialed. As the following annotated speech transcript by Qassim, the Shi'a will not stand for it. Will this be another weekend in which Bahrain deals with peaceful protests with live fire at the discontents? If so, it may be the end of the tenuous peace in the Saudi Arabia region.
Bahrain: Senior cleric Sheik Isa Qassim ... "Friday Sermon" on 4 March 2011
The most senior opposition cleric in Bahrain delivered his Friday prayer speech on 4 March 2011, and covered the following issues:
- With regard to dialogue, I want to talk about the approach to dialogue and will not talk now about the nature and substance of the talks. I wish to make clear that the dialogue should be between two parties with two different views - in this case a representative of the political system [which has already been identified as the Crown Prince], and on the other side, the people, who are in the process of selecting their representatives for dialogue. Dialogue requires the agreement of two opposite sides that have disagreement and are looking to reach an agreement. Therefore we see no value in requiring us to sit with some groups or parliamentarians who are in total agreement with the government. They do not represent a meaningful position at the table. We do not have any problems sitting at the table if the other side is officially mandated to speak on behalf of the political system, but we do not wish to sit with a third party. And our support will go to those who represent the legitimate demands of the people. The opposition delegation will not be representing a sect, a political party, an institution, or a group of parliamentarians; rather they will have the confidence of the people who are raising legitimate demands.
- On the question of the possible redeployment of force by the authorities against demonstrators, I reaffirm that the use of force against peaceful demonstrators who express their views and raise legitimate demands will be condemned by all rational people, by human rights organizations and by the United Nations.
- The criteria that govern our movement are the principles of the Sharia - justice, the national interest, national unity and non-sectarianism. We denounce all sectarian incitement, whether it comes from Shiites or Sunnis. And while we welcome the interest and support of the international media, we urge them not to colour our demands in terms of Shiites versus Sunnis. I also call on all those inside the country to refrain from the use of sectarian discourse. I call on all students in schools and all those in society not to act in response to sectarian incitement. Those who will indulge in hatred because of sectarianism are committing crimes against future generations and against our nation, both at present and in the future. Those who want to damage our generation in such a way our committing a big crime against our society and against our country. [Chanting from the crowd: "No to sectarian conflicts!"]
- The Pearl Roundabout is attracting people from everywhere and it is the center of activism. There are lots of positive aspects [about this gathering] but there are some negative ones as well, and I expect the enemies of this gathering are attempting to damage its reputation in many ways, including fabricating skirmishes amongst the attendants of the Roundabout. Those who get involved in such things are either infiltrators or ignorant. I also expect the enemies of the gathering to send immoral people to mix with the crowd in order to damage the honour and reputation of our people. I call on you to pay attention to these malicious attempts and to prevent damaging the reputation of the Pearl Roundabout. The people with their unity could safeguard the integrity of the protesters.
- As for those who call for democracy worldwide, we understand that many countries now demand democracy. We also witnessed wars in the name of democracy. However we see some of these countries only offer verbal support when it comes to countries with friendly governments. In fact, we see some attempts to pressure the opposition to accept partial solutions, but these partial solutions will only bring back what we used to have, which was an absolute dictatorship. We suspect some of these calls have been driven by the interests of those countries.
- The presence of remaining prisoners who had been sentenced unfairly on the basis of confessions extracted under torture is a confirmation from the political system that it continues on the wrong path. We now also see that they detained Mohammed al-Buflasa only because he expressed his views [at the Pearl Roudnabout], and if anything this tells us that there is no freedom of expression, no transparency, and that the values of people are still not taken into consideration.
As a reminder Mohammed al-Buflasa is a Sunni Bahraini who was detained on the 15th of February 2011 after speaking in support of the Pearl Roundabout protesters. A statement by the Bahrain Defense Force today, 4 March 2011, transmitted by the Bahrain News Agency said al-Buflasa has broken military code and he will be court-martialed.
And once religion is involved, which of course means Iran, then all bets are off especially if Saudi sends reinforcements to support the Bahraini status quo.