Top Bahrain cleric refutes Shia-Sunni divide, says Israel main issue of Muslim world

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Shia Muslim mourners hold a procession in front of Mattam, a religious center, in Sitra island south of the Bahraini capital Manama, August 18, 2021, while social distancing and wearing masks to mark the Muslim holy month of Muharram leading up to the day of Ashura. (Photo by AFP)

Bahrain’s leading cleric Sheikh Isa Qassim says there exists no divide between Shia and Sunni Muslims, but the Islamic world is in fact split into a camp that champions normalization with the Tel Aviv regime and one that adheres to the cause of resistance against Israel and the United States.

“Our Ummah (community) has been divided into two fronts: One group that advocates normalization with the Zionist regime, which is directed by America, the warmongering Zionism and deviant Judaism, and the second group standing up to the first that is the resistance front,” Sheikh Qassim said.

Marking the mourning day of Ashura, when the third Imam of Shia Muslims was martyred in 680 AD, Sheikh Qassim said today’s war is in fact the same as yesterday’s war between Imam Hussein (AS) and the tyrant of the time Yazid I.

“It is haram (forbidden) for the Ummah to give today’s Yazid — represented by the warmongering Zionism and the US — a chance to victory,” he asserted, highlighting the Bahraini people's struggle to revive the memory of Ashura.

Muslims worldwide hold mourning rituals during the month of Muharram to commemorate the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (AS), the grandson of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), and 72 of his companions by Yazid I, an Umayyad caliph, back in the seventh century.

Ashura, the tenth day of Muharram which fell this year on Thursday, is the culmination of 10-day mourning ceremonies for Imam Hussein (AS) and his companions, who have turned into the symbol of the oppressed fighting the oppressors of the time.

‘Brotherly relations between Shias, Sunnis’

Elsewhere in his remarks, Sheikh Qassim said Bahrain’s Sunni Muslims have no problem with the mourning ceremonies held by the Shias during Muharram and any likely issues stem from the deceptive and pernicious policies of the ruling Al Khalifah regime.

“Indeed, the brotherly bond between Sunnis and Shias in Bahrain is very strong, and the two have coexisted for a long time and enjoy religious and family ties,” he said.

The top Bahraini cleric also said the Bahraini regime enforces hostile policies against the Sunnis as it does against the Shias, and that just as Manama restricts religious freedom for the Shias, it does the same for the Sunnis.

The Manama regime “only opens the door of freedom to the Sunnis when [they] do not harm its policies,” he said.

Sheikh Qassim also said that the restrictions imposed by the Al Khalifah regime on the mourning ceremonies must not affect the mindset and conduct of the Shias toward the Sunnis.

In Bahrain, Shia Muslims have been largely banned from holding mourning rituals in most places, under the pretext of preventing the spread of the coronavirus, with major organizers of the ceremonies having been summoned and threatened by the authorities.

The restrictive measures have been condemned by Sheikh Qassim, who has deplored the double standard at a time when business centers, markets, pools and sports clubs have reopened in Bahrain.

Since 2011, Bahraini people have been holding demonstrations, calling for the ruling regime to relinquish power and set the stage for a democratic transition.

The Al Khalifah regime systematically discriminates against Shia Muslims, who account for the majority of Bahrain’s population.

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