A LEADING councillor yesterday appealed for calm after clashes erupted between Sunnis and Shi'ites in Muharraq. Police were forced to intervene to restore order after participants in an Ashoora procession ignored Interior Ministry advice and refused to change their route.
Officials refused to confirm exactly what happened, but it is understood Friday night's clashes involved hundreds of people who pelted each other with stones.
Muharraq Municipal Council chairman Abdulnasser Al Mahmeed said Bahrain's sects had lived in harmony for decades and rogue elements must not be allowed to drive a wedge between the communities.
"Clashes, clashes, clashes - we never used to be like this and what's worse is that it is between neighbours and brothers," he said.
"We have lived together in love and harmony for decades and what is happening now is really worrying, but it signals an era of extremism, where hatred rules.
"There are two extreme factions that are leading Muharraq into destruction, maybe the whole country if it is not controlled, and what's worse is that they are influencing people with reason.
"What those people have to understand is that it is not a challenge for supremacy, it is the challenge to understand the other and be tolerant."
The Interior Ministry earlier posted on its Twitter account that the route of 13 processions organised by ma'atams had been changed, but one refused to comply.
The clashes happened in Mr Al Mahmeed's constituency and the councillor hit back at the organisers, saying the trouble could have been avoided if they had obeyed police instructions.
"People have stayed quiet for years despite being bothered with noise and some chants because it was a more forgiveable society - nowadays passing by some Sunni homes is creating tension," he said.
"The police didn't reroute for no reason, they just wanted to protect Muharraq from clashes."
Friday's clashes were the second violent confrontation between Sunni and Shi'ite worshippers taking part in a religious procession in recent months.
Police were forced to defuse a brawl between members of the two sects during a similar event in October.
"It is time for the wise to take control and it is just a few days before Ashoora is over - just four days left and people have to ensure it passes in the spirituality it represents," said Mr Al Mahmeed.
"We just want clean hearts that will reach halfway between both factions in order to have Ashoora and in future any other event without any sectarian trouble.
"I am personally in contact with the Muharraq Governorate, the Muharraq Governorate Security Directorate and the Muharraq Municipality to ensure that leaders of both communities try to control the situation."