By Sarah Townsend
MPs claim anti-discrimination laws in Bahrain are not being strictly enforced
Bahrain has called for a new law to punish hate crime and discrimination – similar to that introduced by the UAE this week.
Some MPs claim the kingdom already has such laws in place, but they are not effectively enforced.
Under current legislation in Bahrain, anyone convicted of discrimination on the grounds of religion, ethnicity, doctrine or colour faces a maximum of two years in jail and a fine of up to BD200 ($1,900), Gulf Daily News reported on Thursday.
But Shura Council member Darwish Al Mannai believes current rules are not tough enough and has called for new punishments for those found guilty of ‘hate crimes’.
Al Mannai was quoted as saying: “We, citizens and residents, should not close our eyes to the existing situation in the country and the region.
“We need to be alert and keep our eyes open to anything that will help to protect our society from terror and other such threats.
“We should stand in unity with our security services to ensure this.
“[A tougher new law] will ensure that hate speech and discriminatory comments are curbed.”
He said that Bahrain was known for its social, cultural and religious tolerance, but that such a new law “will add value to our country’s image”.
Other MPs responded in parliament this week that enforcing the new law could be challenging, according to Gulf Daily News. “Bahrain already has strong laws in place which are unfortunately not being implemented,” MP Ahmed Qarrata was quoted as saying.
“Existing laws such as those dealing with discrimination remained shelved and are not implemented on the ground – especially in the case of hate speech by religious clerics
“Of course, we can have a new law created through a decree if it is urgent, but unless we strictly implement laws already in place, it is of no use.”
And MP Hamed Al Dossary argued that Bahrain’s constitution was “clear on anti-discrimination, be it by class, creed, sect or religion.
“If people are violating the law, then that is because it is not being applied rigorously enough.”
This week, the UAE introduced a law that, according to state news agency WAM, “criminalises any act that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media”.