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Bahrain charges religious reformers for questioning Islam

February 21, 2023 at 12:24 pm

Sultan Quaboos Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman [Photo by Niklas Weiss on Unsplash]

A Bahraini court is to put three religious reformers on trial today for allegedly questioning the foundations of Islam, AP has reported. The trio are said to be members of a local Shia cultural society, Tajdeed, which encourages discussion of religion, and whose members have previously questioned Islamic jurisprudence and scholarly opinions.

The defendants stand accused of “deliberately undermining the basics of the Islamic religion on which all Muslims and sects agree,” said the state-run Bahrain News Agency. They were referred to a criminal court by prosecutors specialising in cybercrime. The organisation is said to have produced a series of YouTube videos which have angered prominent Shia clerics in the Shia-majority country.

If found guilty, the accused could face up to a year in prison. Two of them have been identified in a tweet by Tajdeed member Nader Rajab: the association’s president Reda Rajab and researcher Jalal Al-Qassab.

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The organisation has issued a statement rejecting the charges and maintaining its innocence, stating that it does not question the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). It questions the opinions of scholars who came later, including contemporary scholars.

“Al-Tajdeed Society will plead to reject the charges against it, because it is a charge based on a misunderstanding as a result of a campaign of truncating and distorting the content it broadcasts, which aims in particular to sanctify the book of God from invalidation and criticise the illogical interpretations that have been added to it,” said the organisation.

Bahraini pro-democracy activist Nabeel Rajab, who has been jailed in the past for his political views, described the “systematic incitement” against Tajdeed as a “flagrant violation” of human rights. “Human rights are legislated for all, and we cannot highlight them in one place and overlook them in another,” he tweeted.

Last week was the 11th anniversary of the pro-democracy uprising that took place in Bahrain amid the wider region’s Arab Spring. The protests were brutally crushed by security forces who were supported by personnel from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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