In Bahrain, Arabs and Jews Gather (and Dance) at a Hanukkah Celebration

Orthodox Jews in black coats and skullcaps danced with Arabs in flowing robes and checkered kaffiyehs at a Hanukkah celebration over the weekend in Bahrain, a Muslim-majority monarchy whose king has sanctioned celebrations of the Jewish holiday.

Video of the celebration, which included a Jewish delegation giving a large silver menorah to Arab dignitaries and members of both groups dancing together, appeared on Monday on YouTube, where many commenters lauded the multicultural celebration.

The event drew the ire of Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls the Gaza Strip, which called the celebration a “humiliating and disgraceful display” in a statement.

“The positive energy that there was tonight needs to be spread around,” an unidentified Jewish man tells the group in American-accented English before handing over the menorah, which he called symbolic. “The symbol is that hopefully through this night we can bring infinite light to the world.”

The Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported that Bahraini officials hosted the Hanukkah candle-lighting ceremony on Saturday, the first night of the eight-day holiday, and that it was attended by members of the country’s small Jewish population, foreign businessmen and “other local Bahrainis.”

The identities of the members of either delegation could not immediately be determined, but American Orthodox Jews suggested online that the Jewish group might have been backed by Eliezer Scheiner, a businessman and philanthropist from Brooklyn. Calls to Mr. Scheiner were not answered.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES 

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Protests held in Bahrain ahead of Formula One

201341218343257734_20Thousands of Bahrainis have demonstrated near the capital, Manama, urging democratic reforms, part of a series of protests planned by the political opposition ahead of next week’s Formula One Grand Prix.

Under the banner “Democracy is our right,” the crowds marched in the Shia area of Aali south of the capital, waving Bahraini flags and chanting anti-monarchy slogans on Friday.

Police stayed away from Friday’s demonstration as protesters denounced king Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa and Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, his uncle.

“You have no legitimacy,” they chanted.

Bahrain’s mainly-Shia opposition bloc, Al-Wefaq, organised the protest as part of demonstrations due to take place from April 12-22 to coincide with the April 19-22 Grand Prix.

Sheikh Ali Salman, head of the Al-Wefaq who was at the protest, said the action was intended to support “demands for democratic transition”.

“We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence,” he said.

Salman called on his supporters to attend a demonstration planned for April 19, as the event kicks off on the Sakhir circuit south of the capital.

A second opposition group, the February 14 Movement, organised another protest on Thursday night in the village of Khamis that was broken up by police.

Thursday night’s demonstration came as a report by Human Rights Watch said that police have been rounding up pro-democracy activists in bid to head off protests.

FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA 

Anglican Clergyman Speaks Out Against Human Rights Abuses in Bahrain

from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

From the Blog of the Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer:

Thomas Jefferson once asked:

“Can the liberties of a nation be thought secure when we have removed their only firm basis, a conviction in the minds of the people that these liberties are of the gift of God? That they are not to be violated but with his wrath?”

In the 18th Century, on both sides of the Atlantic, there would likely have been a consensus that the answer was self-evident – civic responsibility was but the outworking of a higher responsibility to God.

Not so today. In a largely secularized West, while we value our democratic heritage which balances the role and responsibilities of politicians and citizens, many fail to appreciate these values are rooted in eternal truths and immutable laws.

Unless there are moral absolutes by which we judge society, society becomes absolute.

Every person is created equal in the image of God and therefore worthy or dignity and respect. The Christian scriptures insist we have clear responsibilities to both God and the state.

FULL ARTICLE 

Plan for Catholic Church Makes Waves in Bahrain

 By REEM KHALIFA Associated Press

MANAMA, Bahrain September 3, 2012 (AP)

The building of the largest Roman Catholic church in the Gulf was supposed to be a chance for the tiny island kingdom of Bahrain to showcase its traditions of religious tolerance in a conservative Muslim region where churches largely operate under heavy limitations.

Instead, the planned church — intended to be the main center for Catholics in the region — has turned into another point of tension in a country already being pulled apart by sectarian battles between its Sunni and Shiite Muslim communities.

Hardline Sunni clerics have strongly opposed the construction of the church complex, in a rare open challenge of the country’s Sunni king. More than 70 clerics signed a petition last week saying it was forbidden to build churches in the Arabian Peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

One prominent cleric, Sheik Adel Hassan al-Hamad, proclaimed in a sermon during Friday prayers last month, that there was no justification for building further churches in Bahrain, adding, “anyone who believes that a church is a true place of worship is someone who has broken in their faith in God.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC NEWS 

Clashes in Bahrain as Police Block Protest March

(Reuters) – Protesters trying to march to the heart of Bahrain’s capital clashed with riot police on Friday, witnesses said, hours after a massive show of force by the mainstream Shi’ite Muslim opposition.

They said dozens of youths threw stones at police who used teargas and stun grenades to block the planned march to the Pearl roundabout, the centre of an uprising last year which the government suppressed with the help of troops from neighbors, including Saudi Arabia.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Bahrain, where the Sunni Muslim Al Khalifa family rules over a majority Shi’ite Muslim population, has been in turmoil since an uprising erupted last year demanding reforms after successful revolts in Egypt and Tunisia.

The protests escalated ahead of last week’s Formula One Grand Prix, drawing criticism of Bahrain from some governments, rights groups and media watchdogs who say police use excessive force and the government should find a political solution.

FULL ARTICLE FROM REUTERS 

Protesters Blocked From Returning to Bahrain’s Pearl Square

Hundreds of protesters were prevented from returning to a symbolic square in Bahrain’s capital, Manama, on Friday, following the funeral of a man the main opposition party said was beaten to death by security forces this week.

Activists said this video, posted on YouTube on Friday, showed members of the country’s national guard deploying in armored vehicles to prevent mourners from marching to an area of the capital formerly known as Pearl Square.

The square, also known as the Lulu Roundabout, was a center of the country’s protest movement in February before it was cleared by force and the monument at its center razed to the ground by the authorities.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES