Shi'ite mosque demolitions raise tension in Bahrain

Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:11am GMT

By Ulf Laessing

NUWAIDRAT, Bahrain (Reuters) - Two bulldozers and two large trucks are busy removing a large pile of stones, wood and prayer carpets on a large square -- all that remains of a small Shi'ite mosque in the Sunni-ruled kingdom of Bahrain.

"Do you see this ? This was a mosque until this week. They destroyed it," said a Shi'ite man, stopping his car in this poor Shi'ite village outside the capital Manama to point to another heap of masonry, where residents say another mosque once stood.

A religious book lies on top of stones next to a carpet, branches of a palm tree and parts of a gate of a mosque, one of three reduced to rubble next in a residential area.

"It was an old mosque," said the driver, who like other residents declined to give his name for fear of reprisals.

Last month the royal family in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, quelled mainly Shi'ite protests inspired by Arab revolts elsewhere, declaring martial law and calling in troops from Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-ruled Gulf neighbours.

Hundreds of Shi'ites have been detained and others fired from public sector jobs, the opposition says. The government says it targets only people who committed crimes in the unrest.

Now majority Shi'ites say the authorities have begun pulling down their mosques, a policy likely to inflame sectarian tensions further among the island's 600,000 nationals.

The Justice Ministry acknowledges that what it calls illegally built structures, which it does not refer to as mosques, are being torn down. "The ministry will provide legal alternatives for buildings with a licence for those cabins and facilities being removed," it said on its website.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.