A series of blog posts and YouTube videos discussing Islamic scholarship has gotten three men one year each in prison in the small island nation.Three people were sentenced to one year in prison each in Bahrain for "violating the foundations of Islam," a public prosecution statement said on Thursday.

Also Read | Ram Navami 2023: Clashes Erupt Between Two Groups in West Bengal's Howrah Over Procession.

Activists identified the three as Jalal al-Qassab, Redha Rajab and Mohammed Rajab, all members of a Shiite local cultural society called Tajdeed, Arabic for Renewal.

Also Read | Ram Navami 2023: Mahatma Gandhi's Assassin Nathuram Godse's Picture Displayed During Shobha Yatra in Hyderabad (Watch Video).

The case has drawn wide criticism from rights groups, and exposed divisions in the majority Shiite community in the Sunni-ruled kingdom.

Why were they sentenced?

Cybercrime prosecutors referred the three defendants to a criminal court last month over "deliberately undermining the basics of the Islamic religion on which all Muslims and sects agree," according to the state-run Bahrain News Agency.

Prosecutors said the group made blog posts and YouTube videos "about the lives of the messengers and prophets, which included a denial of what was mentioned in the Holy Quran (the Islamic holy book) regarding them and a mockery of what was mentioned."

Critics of Tajdeed, which advocates open religious discussions, have accused it of attacking the foundations of Islam and dismissing purported miracles as popular myths. They have waged a campaign of incitement against the group.

The group has said that it does not question the Quran or Prophet Muhammad's teaching but debates the opinions of religious scholars and modern-day clerics.

They were convicted under a law that criminalizes the "ridicule" of any of Bahrain's recognized religious texts, which include the Quran and the Bible.

Group complains of 'hate speech'

Tajdeed had earlier this month said its members and their families were subject to "hate speech and incitement" at mosques and on social media.

The group has denounced the court case as "malicious" and said it had only been "exercising its natural and legal right to conduct research, engage in analysis, study, and enlighten."

Last month, rights group Human Rights Watch called on Bahraini authorities to "immediately drop all charges against the men and halt inflammatory public comments condemning the society on religious grounds."

The small island nation was rocked by pro-democracy protests from the Shiite community in 2011. Authorities responded to the demonstrations with a crackdown that prompted international condemnation.

fb/msh (AFP, AP)

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Mar 31, 2023 12:00 AM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website latestly.com).