Rally leader denies calls to form popular militia

March 13, 2011

The leader of the newly-formed National Unity Rally has denied charges he had been calling for the formation of a popular militia.

“My words have always been obvious: If you are assaulted and there is no police around to protect you, then do defend yourselves,” Abdul Lateef Al Mahmood has said. “I have never spoken about forming militias or organizing people into a militia. I told people not to provoke anyone and not get involved in clashes. If you are attacked, call the police and if you do not have the police around you, defend yourselves,” the religious scholar told a gathering of supporters.

Al Mahmoud, a former university professor and one of the best-known religious scholars in the country, was chosen as the leader of the Rally, an umbrella for religious societies and mainly independent Sunnis, who have been pushing to assert themselves as an unavoidable factor in the political and social equation of Bahrain.

The Rally has held two massive rallies at Al Fateh Mosque, Bahrain’s largest house of worship, ostensibly to call for national unity and also to display their sheer numbers and impose their presence in response to the rallies organized by protesters and to their demands.

Al Mahmood this week moved in to calm tensions in Busaiteen, an area in Muharraq, after a large crowd carrying sticks and knives gathered amid allegations that a group of protesters were planning to attack the home of a Sunni Bahraini woman who was earlier involved in a minor car accident in central Manama in which two demonstrators were hurt.

“My call for self-defence applies to both Sunnis and Shiites. I do not condone an attack from Sunnis on Shiites, either,” said the man who, with his white beard, is becoming a symbol of Sunni reactions to developments unfolding in Bahrain.

Al Mahmoud has already sat with opposition societies who have said that they would take part in the national dialogue, an initiative launched by Crown Prince Salman to help the country out of its most dramatic crisis in modern times. However, the scholar rejected their pre-conditions, saying that any meaningful dialogue should not start with the results.
The scholar insisted that the Rally was an independent entity.

“We are the opposition when it is in the interests of the country and we support the regime when necessary. Our allegiance is to the nation,” he said.




About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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