I thought I'd talk a bit about the background of the photo I posted on Monday. I took the photo at the site of a lecture that was given near Budaiya Highway, in the Al Qadam area way back in April. The lecture was given by a prominent Shia cleric who talked about solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and its relationship to the martyrdom of Imam Hussain (since the day of the lecture coincided with the Shia holy ceremony of Arbaeen). I didn't actually attend the lecture, but I stopped by to take pictures in the morning, while the stage decorations were still being prepared.
When I got there I spoke to a chap who seemed to be in charge of the art decorations. He was a very nice man and seemed quite pleased that a non-Shia expat was taking interest in the event, and he encouraged me to take lots of pictures. What I was really interested in was the iconography portrayed in all of the images that were painted. So let's have a look at the first picture shown above (for enlarged version click here) and study all the different things going on.
The poster hung from the top of the shown building uses the Palestinian flag as its background, upon which are superimposed: (i) a portrait of the late Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, founder of the Palestinian Islamic militant group Hamas, who was assassinated by the Israeli military just a couple of weeks prior; (ii) a Bahraini flag in the shape of the country's bourders; and (iii) an image of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. Below this is a banner in Arabic which says something like: "Verily, Israel is weaker than the house of the spider". I assume this is a reference to Verse 29:41 of the Quran which reads (Yusuf Ali translation):
The parable of those who take protectors other than God is that of the spider, who builds (to itself) a house; but truly the flimsiest of houses is the spider's house;- if they but knew.
Below the banner are three more pictures. On the left is a portrait of Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei (I think) who is the current Supreme Leader (vali-e-faqih) of Iran. In the middle is an image of a mounted warrior, who I believe is the famous Saladin, with the Dome of the Rock used as the background. The picture on the right is a portrait of the late Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the former Supreme Leader of Iran, and spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution. Finally, on the stage in front of the building are a number of mannequins representing Imam Hussain and his companions during the Tragedy of Kerbala.
What a mad mix of symbolism. Palestinian, Iranian and Bahraini nationalism, mixed with both Shia and Sunni Islamism... a confusing cocktail of identities.
Alright, when I started writing this post two days ago I was planning on studying in detail all of the the posters from this event, and then I was going to come up with some profound post-modern conclusion about the significance of the specific mix of icons used. But the post has been lying around unfinished in my drafts box for two days and I'm tired and I can't be bothered to finish it properly. So I'm just going to show you a few more pictures below, and then you guys can come up with your own profound conclusions (and feel free to share them with me in the comments section).
So here is the second picture:
The turbaned guy on the right is (I think) Shaikh Abdul Ameer Al Jamri who is Bahrain's most prominent Shia cleric, who for years was targetted by the government. I'm not sure who the young man in the picture is, but most likely he's a "Bahraini martyr". Also, note the way that the Bahraini flag and the Palestinian flag are almost blending in to each other.
Again we see Shaikh Al-Jamri and the young man from the previous picture. I'm not too sure who the two (seemingly) Shia clerics flanking him are. At the bottom right is the Dome of the Rock, again, and unfortunately I don't know the identity of the green building shown on the left. If anyone knows then please help me out.
Finally, here's one I took that I find slightly amusing:
That big billboard on the left side is an advertisement for a local beauty salon. I found it quite funny that the stage of the lecture was flanked on one side by a big portrait of the late Sheikh Ahmed Yasin, and on the other side by an even larger portrait of a bride. When the lecture was taking place they covered up the beauty by hanging a huge black cloth over the billboard. I can understand why.
Anyways, have fun with the pictures and come up with your own conclusions.