We have another example of religious intolerance from one of our closest Gulf allies, Bahrain. Christians in that country were hoping to build a large church — something they are prohibited from doing in Saudi Arabia. The Kingdom had agreed to the construction in what was widely viewed as a major advance for religious freedom. That has now led to widespread protests and the statement from a prominent cleric, Sheik Adel Hassan al-Hamad, who proclaimed in a sermon that all further construction on any church should end in the country since “anyone who believes that a church is a true place of worship is someone who has broken in their faith in God.” The protests have led the monarchy of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to isolate al-Hamad.
Sunni clerics are openly opposing the King over the church with over 70 clerics signing a petition that says that it is forbidden to build churches in the Arabian Peninsula.
The Kingdom has ordered Al-Hamad to leave his mosque in an area with many of the Royal family. However, it canceled the order after protests. These protests occur at a time when Sunni and Shiites continue to kill each other in the Kingdom.
However, both sides are united against Christians. The most senior Shiite cleric, Sheik Isa Qassim, opposes any new Church construction.
The effort over the church is a commendable move by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s monarchy, but the response shows the continued intolerance among Muslims in the area toward other religions. What is worrisome is that Bahrain is viewed as the most tolerant of the countries.