That Bahrain stripped the most controversial and virulently anti-national cleric Shaikh Isa Ahmed Qassim, spiritual head of Al Wefaq Islamic Society, of his Bahraini nationality last week has come as no surprise to those watching the developments in Bahrain since the troubles of February 2011. Originally hailing from Iran, local Press reports claim he had obtained the citizenship back in the early 1970s. But he never adhered to the principles and duties that govern the favour.
The 79-year-old spread hatred and instigated sectarian strife in his public speeches as well as Friday sermons from the mosque, even issued fatwas or ukases to instigate sectarianism and sow division. He also misused his religious authority to promote foreign political interests in Bahrain and ordered his followers to boycott elections. The full list of his misdemeanours would run into many foolscaps.
All this had to be brought to an end.
Historically Al Wefaq, until lately the largest and strongest shia political society in the kingdom [it has since been suspended after its secretary-general Ali Salman was jailed for nine years for anti-national activities] had never cooperated with, listened to, or joined hands with the government for the common good of the tiny island state.
Even after the 2011 troubles tapered off and the government subsequently came into the mode of ‘let bygones be bygones’ and initiated talks with it, the wilful leaders of the society left the table on specious excuses. The good of the nation was never at their heart; they saw the country in the mould of the Iranian theocracy.
Finally it was a strong presentation by the Ministry of Interior, based on overwhelming incriminating evidence, that persuaded the Cabinet to give the go-ahead for stripping Shaikh Qassim of his citizenship once it realized he was busy creating an “extremist sectarian environment” and was establishing organizations linked to foreign authorities.
Al Wefaq had always denied all of this. But within hours of Shaikh Qassim being stripped of his citizenship there were furious and threatening reactions from as far afield as the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in Tehran and the Lebanese Hezbollah, unmasking his links with them.
Interestingly, it was also discovered during investigations that Shaikh Qassim had no less than $10 million in his bank account which were promptly frozen. Part of it may have come as illegal funds from his overseas handlers, part of it may have been raised locally through illegal fund-raising efforts such has by running bogus charities.
No surprise that following action against Shaikh Qassim Bahrain’s MPs have demanded tougher measures to combat extremists and groups spreading hatred and instigating sectarian strife. Already, the accounts of two more charities have been frozen – Al Resala Islamic Society and Islamic Enlightenment Society.