Bahrain Shura Council bans mixing of religion with politics

Manama - Bahrain’s Shura Council, the upper chamber of the bicameral parliament, has approved a ban on mixing politics with religion.

The ban was included in amendments to the 2005 Political Society Law that were endorsed by the Council of Representatives, the lower chamber of parliament, last week.

The law regulates the activities of political societies and was promulgated as part of the reforms launched by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa soon after he became the ruler of the country.

The new law bans political societies with sectarian agendas and forbids the use of religious tribunes to promote their ideas.

Judges, diplomats and security and military personnel were banned from joining any political society.

However, for many people, the law did not go far in marking out a clear separation between religion and politics, something that has allowed loopholes which have been misused.

But, now under the latest amendments, the political sphere will be out of bounds to all those who have active religious roles and no religious figure who delivers sermons will be a member of a political society or engage in political activities.

Any religious figure keen on a political role will have to desist from becoming involved in any religious activity, even if it is on a voluntary basis.

The lawmakers who supported the motion on May 17 argued that the decision would ensure that political actions are not given a religious dimension and that religious acts are not politicised.

They said that the separation was significant and that religion and politics should have their own separate prerogatives.

Shaikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa, the justice minister, said that places of worship had been exploited by people with political interests and candidates running in national elections.

The lawmakers who opposed the motion said they were astonished by the move, arguing that the political sphere would inevitably lose individuals of high competence who are active in religious areas.

The draft which amends Article V of the 2005 Political Society Law adds a new condition for anyone to become member of a political society.

By supporting the motion, the lawmakers have rejected a recommendation from the parliamentary legislative and legal committee to turn it down.

At the Shura session on Sunday, 35 members voted in favour of the amendments, while there was one abstention.

The political societies will be given a grace period to regularise the status of their members under the new law.