“The answer is that we would end up somewhere along the lines of Lebanon. Bahrain would enter into a dark phase.”
“He went to Qom [the Iranian holy city] for seven years and worked as an office boy. He was regarded as a joke there,” Sheik al-Asfoor claimed.
“He wears the turban in Bahrain, but he used to wear pants and a shirt. He’s garbage.”
He also criticized Sheik Issa Qassem, Wefaq’s spiritual guide.
“What has he given to society other than inflaming the situation?” he asked.
The sheik rejected the argument that he was too closely aligned with the Sunni-dominated regime to appeal to the Shiite community, saying that he represented the “silent majority.”
“To Wefaq, anybody who says, ‘Don’t burn, Don’t destroy,’ is a government stooge,” he said.
Khalil Marzooq, a Wefaq leader, told The Washington Times that he refused to dignify Sheik al-Asfoor’s attacks.
“My response is not to respond,” he said.
Toby Jones, a professor of Middle East history at Rutgers University and a former Bahrain-based consultant for the International Crisis Group, said that despite his religious credentials, Sheik al-Asfoor’s political support remained minimal among Bahraini Shiites, confined to the socially upscale and religiously moderate.
In a typical election for Bahrain’s 40-member Council of Representatives, a party led by Sheik al-Asfoor would be lucky to get one or two seats and would be more likely to take votes away from pro-government Sunni candidates than from opposition Shiite ones, he said.
On closely divided votes, though, Mr. Jones said that a couple seats could alter the equation, possibly allowing a cross-sectarian coalition of secular independents and moderate Islamists to pass progressive social legislation.
“The government would jump for joy, if he became a mainstream alternative to Wefaq,” he said.
© Copyright 2013 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
Ben Birnbaum is a reporter covering foreign affairs for The Washington Times. Prior to joining The Times, Birnbaum worked as a reporter-researcher at the New Republic. A Boston-area native, he graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University with a degree in government and psychology. He won multiple collegiate journalism awards for his articles and columns in the Cornell Daily Sun.
By Douglas Holtz-Eakin
The young drop coverage to avoid higher premiums
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
In a world that is increasingly complex, we need to seek greater awareness of the blending of cultures and America's changing role in a global community.
A look at what’s new and what’s worth driving, no matter the budget.
Finding health and health care is not easy. It is changing. Know what's on the rise.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention
California wildfires wreak havoc