Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Islam in Bahrain
Islam in Bahrain is the state religion. The citizen population is 98 percent Muslim; Jews and Christians constitute the remaining 2 percent. Muslim citizens belong to the Shi'a and Sunni branches of Islam, with Shi'a constituting as much as 75% of the indigenous population.
Foreigners, mostly from South Asia and other Arab countries, as well as Europeans and Americans, constitute approximately 38 percent of the total population. Roughly half of foreigners are non-Muslim, including Christians, Jews, Hindus, Baha'is, Buddhists, and Sikhs.
The Constitution states that Islam is the official religion and also provides for freedom of religion; however, there were some limits on this right. In the past, the Government did not tolerate political dissent, including from religious groups or leaders; however, in 2001 the King pardoned and released all remaining political prisoners and religious leaders, including Shi'a clerics. Members of other religions who practice their faith privately do so without interference from the Government and are permitted to maintain their own places of worship and display the symbols of their religion.
The country observes the Muslim feasts of [Eid al-Adha], Eid al-Fitr, the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, and the Islamic New Year as national holidays. The Shi'a religious celebration of Ashura is a 2-day national holiday. The Shi'a stage large public processions during the holiday. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Government tried to prevent many of these processions and put many participants in jail. The Government no longer hinders these processions. The Ministry of Information provides full media coverage of Ashura events.
Although there are notable exceptions, the Sunni Muslim minority enjoys a favored status. Sunnis dominate Bahrain politically and economically. They live in the cities, where they often make up the majority. Shi'as are almost totally dominant in the rural areas. Sunnis often receive preference for employment in sensitive government positions and in the managerial ranks of the civil service. Shi'a citizens do not hold significant posts in the defense and internal security forces, although they are allowed to be employed in the enlisted ranks. In 2002, the Government licensed for the first time a school to provide students with a Shi'a religious curriculum designed to educate the next generation of Shi'a religious scholars.
- State Department 
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