Bahrain officially bans mixing politics with religion

Manama - The mixing of politics and religion has been officially banned in Bahrain following the amendments issued by King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa to the 2005 Political Society Law.

Under the amendments, society members must not be engaged in giving religious speeches, sermons or guidance, even without remuneration.

Under no circumstances can anyone combine religious preaching and membership in a political society.

The law issued on Saturday also stipulated how a political society might carry out its activities, organise the relationship among its members on a democratic basis, determine the political, financial and administrative prerogatives of its organs and leaders and ensure the highest levels of democratic discussions within them.

The amendments banning mixing politics with religion were endorsed last month by the two chambers of the bicameral parliament following debates by lawmakers.

The law was promulgated in 2005 as part of the reforms launched by King Hamad soon after he became the ruler of the country.

The law banned political societies with sectarian agendas and forbade the use of religious tribunes to promote political ideas.

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

Out of bounds

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.

However, under the 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 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.