Bahrain monarch calls for religious tolerance, denounces anti-Israel boycotts

Bahrain’s King Hamad al Khalifa, who has reportedly denounced anti-Israel boycotts and approved visits to the Jewish state, has authored a historic document calling for religious tolerance. 

The Bahrain Declaration on Religious Tolerance, described by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) as a “plain-speaking attack against terrorism,” authored by King Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain, was released last week at an historic event co-sponsored SWC at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles.

“The document, the first of its kind to be written by an Arab head of state, calls for people of all faiths to show respect for, and protection of, the rights of everyone to practice their religious affiliations in dignity and peace,” SWC announced.

“Every individual has the freedom to practice their religion, providing they do no harm to others, respect the laws of the land, and accept responsibility, spiritually and materially, for their choices,” the Bahraini declaration reads.

Representing his father, Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalif signed the declaration along with Rabbi Marvin Hier, SWC founder and dean. A 40-person delegation from Bahrain accompanied Prince Nasser to Los Angeles and joined in the tour to the Museum of Tolerance, it was announced on the Center’s website .

“Arab diplomats from across the Middle East, along with representatives of 15 nations from five continents and 300 interfaith leaders from around the world represented Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Baha’i communities, at the historic gathering,” which included about 600 participants.

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“One day the planet is going to be like this hall, Inshallah,” al Khalifa, the event’s main speaker, declared.

“Bahrain is a place where Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus live in coexistence,” Rev. Johnnie Moore told the crowd, noting that in addition to hosting one of the oldest Hindu temples, the kingdom is constructing the largest Catholic church in the Arab world.

Any ‘Relevant’ Religion’ Must Denounce Terror

Recalling his visit to Bahrain in February 2017, Hier said the “most exciting part…was listening to His Majesty outline his vision for a new Middle East — one solidly based on the principles of inclusion and human dignity that rejects extremism.”

“If a religion wants to be relevant in the 21st century, it must speak out against terrorist extremism. Otherwise, it’s not really a religion. Anyone born in the image of God has to stand against terrorists… So the Bahrain Declaration is the right time, the right idea and the right place,” Hier stated.

Bahrain Declaration ‘Devoid of Political Correctness’

The Bahrain Declaration “is a statement devoid of political correctness,” Rabbi Abraham Cooper, SWC’s associate dean, said. “It’s exactly the language that millions of people around the world have been waiting for. We know there are moderates, but who is going to stand up and articulate it. So to have an Arab head of state tackle these issues is a game changer.”

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The Jerusalem Post reported that Arab officials stood in respect as the Bahrain National Orchestra played “Hatikva,” Israel’s national anthem, preceded by the Bahraini and US national anthems.

King Hamad denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and said his subjects were free to visit the Jewish state, the Post reported.

“May the day come soon when His Majesty’s plane lands at Ben-Gurion Airport, and when the anthems played here tonight will be heard around the world ushering in that long-awaited era of lasting peace and tranquility,” Hier said, according to the Post.

Shifting Sands of Middle Eastern Politics

Bahrain currently does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

“That the prince would come to the Museum of Tolerance — an unabashedly pro-Israel institution — highlights the shifting sands of Middle Eastern politics in an era in which common enemies and concerns can create strange bedfellows,” the LA Times wrote.

“If I had to predict, I would tell you that the Arab world’s relationship with the State of Israel is going to dramatically change,” Hier said, the Times added. “The king is “ahead of the pack and smart. It is the way to go, and he’s smart. This is a dinner tonight that’s hosted by a Jewish organization that no one will say is not so pro-Israel.”

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In another sign of change in the country, the Middle East Media Research Institute posted a video last winter showing a “cleansing” operation by Bahrain’s “Youth for Jerusalem” branch at the location of a menorah-lighting ceremony on the first night of Chanukah, sponsored by king.

Rumors were swirling last week that Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman had visited the Jewish state. If true, this would also signal a major change in diplomatic relations between Israel and the Arab world.

By: Adina Katz, World Israel News