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Group to promote Islamic values.

AN Islamist group running for parliament elections will seek a complete alcohol ban in the new term. Al Asala, a Salafist group whose members believe in traditional Muslim values dating back more than 1,000 years, specifically targets alcohol in its election manifesto.

Veteran MP and bloc member Shaikh Adel Al Ma'awda, who has already secured a third term in parliament after being elected unopposed, argued the ban was needed to protect Bahrain's image as a Muslim country.

"We feel alcohol should be banned to comply with Sharia (Islamic) teachings," he said.

"The issue did not get time to be discussed further during the last legislative term and we are planning to bring it up again."

Al Asala, which adheres to the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, sought a complete alcohol ban towards the end of the last parliament and MPs unanimously voted in favour of the proposal in March.

However, the Shura Council rejected the bill in May on the grounds that it breached the rights of non-Muslims.

An amended version of the legislation, which would have allowed non-Muslims to drink in their homes and in "designated places", was referred back to parliament.

However, MPs rejected those changes and the bill was due to go back to the Shura Council again for a final vote, but it ran out of time and collapsed when the four-year National Assembly term ended in the summer.

Shaikh Adel claimed the ban was needed to help clean up Bahrain's tourism sector.

"We are ready to back any steps taken by the government to protect the country's morals and crackdown on all forms of depravity, including alcohol," he said.

The bloc, which won five seats in the 40-member parliament in 2006, is hoping to increase its presence during next month's election.

In addition to Shaikh Adel, it has fielded seven candidates and has drawn up a 15-point manifesto that focuses on promoting "Islamic democracy, culture and economy" - beginning with a cleanup of the tourism industry.

"This is our tradition and Al Asala wants to promote this in parliament," said Shaikh Adel, who was automatically elected in Muharraq's constituency one, which includes Busaiteen, when independent challenger Yahya Ali withdrew from the race.

The bloc, which is affiliated to the Al Asala Islamic Society, has come up with the slogan: "Abiding by the teaching of Islam and striving to serve the country and residents."

Its manifesto also includes raising living standards, securing better housing, developing medical services and improving education.

The bloc is also targeting those with special needs with a pledge to provide them with better services, while its members will also seek to develop the national economy and emphasise the role of youth and sport in society.

"We want to secure quality medical services by building specialised centres to treat chronic diseases," said Shaikh Adel. "We are also looking to develop the health sector by creating training centres for staff."

The bloc also hopes to win votes with a proposal to establish another national university, which would work alongside Bahrain University and offer alternative courses.

However, its parliament candidates are only running in three of Bahrain's five governorates - Muharraq, Southern and Central.

Four are running in Muharraq, with Ibrahim Bu Sandal seeking election in constituency two, Isa Abu Al Fateh in constituency four, Rashid Abdulrahman in constituency five and Ghanim Al Buaineen in constituency eight.

Abdulhaleem Murad is running in the Central Governorate's constituency seven, while Hamad Al Muhannadi is running in the Southern Governorate's constituency two and Sami Al Buhairi in the Southern Governorate's constituency three.

National polls for parliament and municipal councils take place on October 23, but Al Asala is yet to unveil its manifesto for the council elections.

Copyright 2009 Gulf Daily News

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Date:Oct 6, 2010
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