DUBAI (Reuters) - A Bahraini court has sentenced a man to two years in prison for making insulting comments about one of the Prophet Mohammad’s wives, newspapers reported on Sunday, the latest such case In the Gulf highlighting sectarian tension in the region.
The daily al-Wasat reported that a man had insulted Aisha, a revered figure for Sunni Muslims, in comments online.
“The accused entered a website and made comments that were so morally filthy and depraved that the tongue could not pronounce them, and they slandered Aisha,” the Arabic-language newspaper said on its website.
It said prosecutors ordered police to investigate after receiving a complaint concerning the online activities of someone of “deviant thought and corrupt belief”. The report was also published on Bahraini daily al-Watan’s website.
A Kuwaiti man was sentenced to 10 years in June for endangering state security by insulting the Prophet, his wife Aisha and his companions, as well as the Sunni Muslim rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, on social media.
A Kuwaiti Shi‘ite cleric was stripped of his nationality in 2010 for comments insulting the figure of Aisha.
Underlying tensions between Sunnis and Shi‘ites in Muslim countries are often ignited by such issues concerning figures from early Islam and the different interpretations of Sunnis and Shi‘ites over the historical events of that period.
Such slander cases have become more frequent in recent years, as Sunni Gulf rulers watch with the alarm the rising influence of Shi‘ite power Iran.
The Arab uprisings have also exacerbated tensions, as Sunni clerics use sectarian language to denounce the Syrian government, led by President Bashar al-Assad.
Sectarian tension has risen in Bahrain, where majority Shi‘ites have led protests for democratic reforms. Some Sunni clerics use sectarian language to denounce the opposition.
Aisha and the Prophet’s cousin Ali, revered by Shi‘ites, fought on opposing sides during the first civil war of the early Islamic period. Sunnis and Shi‘ites sometimes also disagree over an incident in which she was accused of adultery; the Prophet rejected the charge.
Writing by Andrew Hammond; Editing by Sami Aboudi and Jon Hemming