- Title: BAHRAIN: Tens of thousands of Shiites mark Ashura in Bahrain.
- Date: 30th January 2007
- Summary: PEOPLE IN STREETS
- Embargoed: 14th February 2007 12:00
- Location: Bahrain
- Country: Bahrain
- Topics: Religion
- Reuters ID: LVAADYRRFNRGHUR4BH45ULUBARZ0
- Story Text: Shi'ite Muslims across Bahrain have this week been marking the Ashura religious festival by taking to the streets and whipping and cutting themselves to emulate the suffering of the Prophet's grandson Hussein.
Shi'ites from across the world have been marking the rituals of Ashura this week, with thousands taking to the streets of Bahrain's capital Manama, whipping and cutting themselves to emulate the suffering of the Prophet Mohammad's grandson Hussein.
During Ashura -- the first 10 days of the Islamic month of Muharram -- Shi'ites commemorate the slaying of Hussein and his followers at Kerbala in 680 AD by the army of an Islamic empire based in Damascus.
The rites reach a climax on the 10th day of the month, which falls on Monday or Tuesday according to the Islamic calendar.
Shi'ite tradition depicts Hussein as a semi-divine 'perfect man', as well as the rightful leader of the Islamic nation through his blood link to the Prophet.
His tragic end has often been seen as inspiration in fights against injustice and suffering, and this has struck a chord with Shi'ites in Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain who maintain close links with non-Arab Shi'ite power Iran.
"All these people are participating tonight in Manama and it's all a reflection on the importance of this great anniversary which comes to our country every year and we see many people taking part," said Adel Jalil Khalil, a Bahraini MP.
Although Shi'ites are the minority sect of Islam, they form some 65% of Bahrain's 650,000 population.
Shi'ites in Bahrain complain of second-class treatment from Sunni authorities and clerics who sometimes look on them as virtual heretics.
They have for years demanded more power, an end to what they say is unequal treatment of them by the government and discrimination in jobs and services, which have in the past led to unrest, arrests, exile and clashes with police.
This year Bahrain's main Shi'ite Muslim opposition, which has boycotted elections in the past, won 16 of parliament's 40 seats.
The results could give majority Shi'ites a bigger role in the political life of the pro-Western Gulf Arab state.
Bahrain is ruled by the Sunni Al Khalifa family and since coming to power in 1999, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has introduced some reforms, including pardoning political prisoners and exiles in the pro-Western country, headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet.
- Copyright Holder: REUTERS
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