As the sectarian tension rises across Iraq and Syria, Bahrain has been giving mixed signals towards the threat of the spill over reaching its shores, from confusing official responses to popular fear rising.
News surfaced that hardline Saudi Sunni cleric Mohamad Al Arefe will be visiting Bahrain tomorrow (July 8, 2014), further aggravating the situation. The cleric, who has been banned from entering the United Kingdom for suspicions regarding the recruitment of jihadists in Syria, is supposed to hold events targeting young Muslims in Bahrain. This has created controversy among Twitter users, who called for Al-arefe's visit to be called off, particularly since he is vocal in calling the adherents of the Shia faith, who make up the majority of the Bahraini local population, apostates.
Bahrain has long been criticized for what some considered quasi-apartheid policies and the events of 2011 did not help bring an end to these practices but to further increase discrimination against the majority Shia popular, ruled by a minority Sunni regime. As the sectarian tension rises in Iraq and Syria, Bahrainis fear the ripple effect will soon reach home as jihadists recruited in Bahrain have been involved in the armed conflict in Syria and according to a formal statement of Bahrain Ministry of Interior some might have returned.
Under these circumstances, a visit by a hardline cleric, known for fanning the flames of sectarianism is not welcome in a country already stretched by tension.
Lawyer Fatima Al Hawaj, who has 47.6k followers, tweeted [ar]:
نتمنى من الداخلية منع دخول محمد العريفي البحرين حتى لا يغرر بعقول الناس للجهاد في سوريا والعراق عقله داعشي ونحن مو قاصرين اكشن في البحرين !
— فاطمة الحواج- محامية (@fatimaalhawaj) July 5, 2014
We urge the Ministry of Interior to ban Al-arefe from entering Bahrain so that he won't lure people into going to jihad in Syria and Iraq. His mindset is just like ISIS and we don't need more suspense in Bahrain
Human rights activist Said Yousif Al Muhafda tweeted to his 98.7k followers:
— S.Yousif Almuhafda (@SAIDYOUSIF) July 5, 2014
Bahraini Twitter users express their rejection for allowing terrorism inciter Mohamed Al-arefe from giving incitement speeches in Bahrain under the hashtag Al-arefe is not welcome in Bahrain
And Abbas Al Jamry tells his 2,000 followers
المجرم العريفي سيزيد من زجر حواضن التطرف في البسيتين والرفاع، البلد صغير ولا يحتمل نيرانا أكثر #العريفي_غير_مرحب_بك_في_البحرين
— Abbas Ali Aljamry (@Abbasaljamry) July 6, 2014
The criminal Al-arefe will increase extremism in Busaiteen and Riffa. The country is small and cannot withstand more fires
On July 4, the chief of public security Brigade Tariq Alhassan has published a formal statement calling for parents to supervise their children and warn them against participating in terrorist groups and conflicts.
The Chief also warned against joining extremist religious groups or any group that is classified as a terrorist organization.
However, he has also previously tweeted this:
— Tariq Alhassan (@Talhassan) October 23, 2013
Omar ibn Alkhatab (third calipha) said: You don't defeat your enemies with numbers nor with arms, but with religion, but if your sins became equal, then the strongest shall triumph.
The logo on the bullet is that of Al-Shabaab Al-Mujahideen in Somalia, and recently it is being used as the ISIS flag, as well as the logo of other terrorist groups since 2000.
The same flag has surfaced across Bahrain after the advances of ISIS in Iraq.
Tweeter @ZainabAtteya shared with her 18.7K followers the following:
بفترة السلامة الوطنية كان لصق(علم البحرين) ع السيارة يودي بك للسجن لأنه يرونه إرهابا، واليوم ملصق داعش يُغض عنه البصر pic.twitter.com/JoPLudeIvi
— Zainab Atteya (@ZainabAtteya) June 13, 2014
During the martial law period sticking the flag of Bahrain on your car would have led you to jail because they considered it terrorism, today the flag of ISIS is gone by unnoticed
Yosuif Alkhaja also shared this picture of the logo appearing in a graffiti over a school in Bahrain:
— yousif alkhaja (@yousifalkhaja) July 6, 2014
Good morning Ministry of Interior.
The logo is on the walls of a school in Muharraq.
Will this be considered as trespassing on schools or what?
In the past, similar flags were raised across Bahrain which alarmed a lot of people to the danger of Alqaeda becoming a threat in Bahrain as the “quasi-apartheid” state would be a suitable habitat for extremism, especially since all attention is focused on the crackdown on political dissent against the regime.