Al Wefaq National Islamic Society
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Different approaches and methods for the romanization of Arabic exist. They vary in the way that they address the inherent problems of rendering written and spoken Arabic in the Latin alphabet; they also use different symbols for Arabic phonemes that do not exist in English or other European...
: Jam'īyat al-Wifāq al-Watanī al-Islāmīyah), also known as the Islamic National Accord Association
, is a Bahraini political society, and the largest party in the Bahrain, both in terms of its membership and its results at the polls. Although it is by far the single largest party, with 18 representatives, in the 40-member Bahraini parliament
The National Assembly is the name of both chambers of the Bahraini parliament when sitting in joint session, as laid out in the Constitution of 2002....
, it has often been outvoted by coalition blocs of opposition Sunni parties and independent MPs. On February 27, 2011, the 18 Al Wefaq members of parliament submitted letters of resignation to protest regime violence against pro-reform Bahraini protestors.
Al Wefaq's religious orientation is Shia and it is led by a cleric, Sheikh Ali Salman
Ali Salman is the president of the Al-Wefaq political society in Bahrain. He is a Twelver Shi'a cleric educated in Qom. In January 1995 the Bahraini government forcibly exiled him to Dubai for leading a popular campaign demanding the reinstatement of the constitution and the restoration of...
. The party is close to a Shia clerical body in Bahrain, the Islamic Scholars Council, which describes Al Wefaq as the 'Bloc of Believers'. In 2006, the Bahraini newspaper Gulf Daily News
The Gulf Daily News is an English-language newspaper published in the Kingdom of Bahrain by Al Hilal Group. It is distributed locally in Bahrain. It is owned by the Al Hilal Group, which publishes 13 other newspapers and magazines, including the local Arabic newspaper Akhbar Al Khaleej. The paper,...
alleged that al Wefaq had only 1,500 active members, although Wefaq itself claims to have 80,000 members and a leaked diplomatic briefing
The United States diplomatic cables leak, widely known as Cablegate, began in February 2010 when WikiLeaks—a non-profit organization that publishes submissions from anonymous whistleblowers—began releasing classified cables that had been sent to the U.S. State Department by 274 of its consulates,...
from the US Embassy in Bahrain described Wefaq as the largest party in Bahrain in terms of membership.
Al Wefaq boycotted the 2002 general election
The 2002 parliamentary elections in Bahrain were the second parliamentary elections in the country's history, and the first legislative elections since the dissolution of the 1973 National Assembly...
, the first parliamentary elections held in the country since 1973, claiming that the 2002 constitution gave too much power to the unelected upper house
An upper house, often called a senate, is one of two chambers of a bicameral legislature, the other chamber being the lower house; a legislature composed of only one house is described as unicameral.- Possible specific characteristics :...
, the Consultative Council of Bahrain
The Consultative Council is the name given to the upper house of the National Assembly, the main legislative body of Bahrain....
, whose members are directly appointed by the King. In the 2006 election
Bahrain held parliamentary elections on 25 November 2006 for the 40-seat lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, as well as municipal elections. There was a 72% turnout in the first round of polling...
Wefaq received the backing of the Islamic Scholars Council which helped it win seventeen of the eighteen seats it contested. In the 2010 election
A parliamentary election was held in Bahrain with the first-round on 23 October, and the second round on 30 October 2010. Al-Wefaq won a plurality...
, they increased their representation by one seat, winning all the constituencies they contested, to take 18 of the 40 available parliamentary seats.
Many of Al Wefaq's leaders returned to Bahrain under the reform process initiated by King Hamad when he inherited the throne and pardoned
Amnesty is a legislative or executive act by which a state restores those who may have been guilty of an offense against it to the positions of innocent people, without changing the laws defining the offense. It includes more than pardon, in as much as it obliterates all legal remembrance of the...
all the political activists of the 1990s political unrest. Its leadership backed King Hamad's National Charter
The National Action Charter of Bahrain is a document put forward by King Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifah of Bahrain in 2001 in order to end the popular 1990s Uprising and return the country to constitutional rule. It was approved in a national referendum in 2001, in which 98.4% of the voters voted in...
for political reforms after the King assured the country's leading opposition clerics, through a signed statement, that only the elected chamber of parliament would have legislative power, as stipulated by the 1973 Constitution.
However the Al Wefaq leadership withdrew support when the ruling regime later announced the 2002 Constitution which mandated a chamber, appointed directly by the King, that would share legislative power with the elected chamber. Al Wefaq boycotted the 2002 parliamentary election
An election is a formal decision-making process by which a population chooses an individual to hold public office. Elections have been the usual mechanism by which modern representative democracy operates since the 17th century. Elections may fill offices in the legislature, sometimes in the...
, with three other political societies: the former Maoist
Maoism, also known as the Mao Zedong Thought , is claimed by Maoists as an anti-Revisionist form of Marxist communist theory, derived from the teachings of the Chinese political leader Mao Zedong . Developed during the 1950s and 1960s, it was widely applied as the political and military guiding...
National Democratic Action Society, the pro-Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...
Baath affiliated Nationalist Democratic Rally Society
Nationalist Democratic Assembly , a political group attached to the Baghdad-based Ba'ath Party in Bahrain. The organization is led by Rasul al-Jishi....
and Islamic Action Society. However Al-Wefaq did put forward candidates for the municipal elections that same year.
Some notable actions by Al Wefaq's leaders include pushing for more strict clothing guidelines at the University of Bahrain
The University of Bahrain , a public university in the Kingdom of Bahrain, is the largest university in Bahrain. In post-nominals the University of Bahrain is typically abbreviated as UoB....
and other issues that it considers are against the teachings of Islam. Al Wefaq officials have called for a ban on the hanging of underwear on clothes lines
and the display of lingerie mannequins
. Al Wefaq councillors in Muharraq are also backing changes to the building regulations pushed by salafist party Asalah that would see new apartments fitted with one way windows
to prevent outsiders seeing in. Other prominent Al Wefaq leaders include the head of Manama City Council, Murtada Bader, and Muharraq
Muharraq , is Bahrain's third largest city, and served as its capital until 1923. The city is located on Muharraq Island and has long been a centre of religiosity...
Councillor, Majeed Karimi, who came to prominence leading the party's campaign against lingerie
Lingerie are fashionable and possibly alluring undergarments.Lingerie usually incorporates one or more flexible, stretchy materials like Lycra, nylon , polyester, satin, lace, silk and sheer fabric which are not typically used in more functional, basic cotton undergarments.The term in the French...
mannequins in shop windows.
The party's Manama
Manama is the capital and largest city of Bahrain, with an approximate population of 155,000 people.Long an important trading center in the Persian Gulf, Manama is home to a very diverse population...
Council head, Murthader Bader, has called for the housing of South Asian nationals to be separated from that of Bahraini families. This would best address tensions between locals and third world expatriates that saw race riots against immigrants in March 2004. In 2007, Deputy Abdullah Al A'ali, a party representative in Bahrain's lower house, reiterated the call to move South Asian nationals away from Bahraini neighborhoods. The effort has been criticised by Bahraini human rights groups.
As with any religious party in the world, Al Wefaq has had to address the relationship between spiritual and secular authority. On the contentious issue of reform of Bahrain’s family laws, Al Wefaq stated in October 2005 that neither elected MPs nor the government has the authority to change the law because these institutions could 'misinterpret the word of God'. Instead, Al Wefaq insisted that the right to legislate on issues relating to women and families is solely that of religious leaders.
There have been some differences among western analysts as to the role played by ideology in Al Wefaq’s agenda: according to Dr Toby Jones of Swarthmore College
Swarthmore College is a private, independent, liberal arts college in the United States with an enrollment of about 1,500 students. The college is located in the borough of Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia....
, “Al Wefaq does not espouse a specific ideological vision”; while Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations
The Council on Foreign Relations is an American nonprofit nonpartisan membership organization, publisher, and think tank specializing in U.S. foreign policy and international affairs...
has described Al Wefaq’s policies towards women as “outrageous”
and has taken a critical view of its backing of plans to prevent residents being able to see out of their homes http://www.cfr.org/publication/10865/emerging_shia_crescent_symposium.html
In a show of strength against a demonstration by women's rights activists, on 9 November 2005 Al Wefaq jointly organised with clerics a much larger counter demonstration against the Supreme Council for Women
The Supreme Council for Women is Bahrain’s advisory body to the government on women's issues. It is chaired by Sheikha Sabika bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, the wife of Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa...
's (secular women organization) campaign for the introduction of a personal status law http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/1yr_arc_Articles.asp?Article=126497&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=28234&date=11/9/2005
MPs from the society (and the main opposition group) walked out of the Bahrain parliament on 8 May 2007 in protest after their request for a corruption investigation of State Minister of Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Ahmad bin Ateyatallah al-Khalifa, a member of the royal family, was denied. The forty- member lower chamber dismissed the motion as only nineteen lawmakers voted in favor of the investigation, two votes short of the majority needed http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=19163&prog=zgp&proj=zme#news
Al Wefaq announced that it would reverse its elections boycott and participate in the 2006 parliamentary election. The party hoped to win 12–14 seats http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/06/07/04/10051299.html
in the poll to take place in November 2006. The party has denied that it will not field any women candidates, dismissing the allegations as "pure speculation". Along with Salafists, such as Ali Mattar
Ali Mohamed Mattar is a salafist Bahraini MP who represents Asalah in the Chamber of Deputies.Mattar is one of Asalah’s most active MPs, and is seen as carving out a niche for himself in parliamentary life with legislative proposals that have been described by supporters as ‘bold’...
, the party objects to the government's ban on candidates using religious sermons to promote their election campaigns. Al Wefaq parliamentary hopeful Jassem Al Khayat has commented: "The ban is senseless because the mosque, as an integral part of people's daily lives, has always been close to the political scene."http://archive.gulfnews.com/articles/06/08/30/10063601.html
Salafist MP Jassim Al Saeedi
Jassim Al Saeedi is a Bahraini salafist MP, member of parliament representing a constituency in Riffa.After he was banned from standing in 2002's general election for the main Salafist party, Asalah, for being "too extreme", Al Saeedi stood and won the election as an independent...
campaigned to get the party banned from standing in the poll on the grounds that the party did not recognize the 2002 Constitution. When his demands were rejected by the government, Mr Saeedi accused the Minister of Justice, Dr Mohammed Al Sitri, of being the party's 'front man' and acting as their 'lawyer'. Mr Saeedi told Dr Al Sitri during a session of parliament: "It seems they chose you to be front man, because you are defending them well." http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Story.asp?Article=144314&Sn=BNEW&IssueID=29065
The parliamentary election campaigns of Al Wefaq members put many of the current hot issues in the political scene to the surface. For example, Al Wefaq extensively used the Bandargate scandal in its campaigns and promised to question and punish those responsible for it. Moreover, Al Wefaq raised serious concerns over the election results and questioned many aspects of the election process. Indeed, accusations of fraud as well as the lack of transparency were raised shortly before the start of elections.
17 out of 18 candidates from Al Wefaq won the 2006 parliamentary elections. 62% of Bahraini voters voted for Al Wefaq and they hold 42.5% of the seats in the elected chamber of the parliament (out of a total of 40 seats) making them the strongest political party in Bahrain in terms of the number of supporters and representatives in the elected chamber of the parliament.
Following a wave of arrests prior to the election, Al Wefaq
won at least 18 of the 40 seats to the lower house.
Members who won reached to the parliament after 2010 elections were:
Shaikh Ali AlAsheeri