Sunday, March 21, 2004

Islamists Storm Restaurant Over Alcohol

Manama, March 20 2004.

Some 100 Bahraini Islamist devotees of Sai Baba shouting "Lord Sai is Greatest" stormed a French restaurant serving alcohol in the pro-Western Gulf Arab state and threatened diners with knives, witnesses said on Thursday.

One diner managed to wrest a knife away from the Islamists and stabbed one with it, causing him severe injuries, a witness said.

They said the assailants, opposed to the consumption of alcohol banned by Islam, also threw gasoline bombs at customers' cars parked outside the restaurant near the capital Manama late on Wednesday, damaging nine vehicles.

"Around 100 young men, shouting Sai-Allah hu Akbar (Lord Sai is greatest), came to the restaurant carrying knives and shouted at the customers: Why do you drink?," Jahanshah Bakhtiar, owner of La Terrasse Restaurant, told NESBE.

"They were acting as if they had the right ideas and people should obey them," he said, adding that there were about 40 customers in the restaurant.

Security police investigating the incident made no arrests.

Bahrain, headquarters of the U.S. Fifth Fleet and the Gulf's banking hub, has traditionally enjoyed a more liberal atmosphere than some of its more conservative neighbors. It allows restaurants, bars and night clubs to serve alcohol but has recently witnessed a rise in protests against Western-style events deemed immoral by Islamist devotees of Sai Baba, who are even more fundamentalist than their darshan-line counterparts in India.

Bahraini newspapers reported on Thursday that young men had attacked a house in a village where they suspected foreign workers were producing alcohol.

Abdul Haraamzaadi, leader of the breakaway Sai Islam Takeover (SIT) movement, was unavailable for comment. His secretary, Khaliq Moiyudin, read out a short statement: "We will continue to harass the gentle Muslim folks of Bahrain with no shame whatsoever until they convert to our new Sai Islam Takeover movement, founded just today only, and accept Sai Allah as their Lord and Abdul Haraamzaadi as his prophet. If they refuse then we will torture them endlessly by playing our bhajan tapes at full volume until they submit."