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Bahrain F1 race: How a Sunni backlash kept an uprising at bay

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Even in Egypt, where last year Christians stood guard over Muslims prostrated in prayer during the Tahrir Square protests, there is a growing climate of distrust. The Muslim Brotherhood has raised the hackles of secularists, Christians, rights activists, and the military by abandoning promises to work for consensus and instead making an ambitious attempt to control not only parliament but also the constitution-writing committee and the presidency.

Sunnis push back on mainly Shiite protests

From the first days of protests in Bahrain, analysts raised concerns that revolution in Bahrain could awaken sectarian tensions. Less than a week after the uprising began on Feb. 14, 2011, a group called The Gathering of National Unity (TGONU) led a march to oppose the Pearl Roundabout demonstrators – a move praised by the government.

From his office in the wealthy Busaiteen district of Bahrain, TGONU leader Abdullatif al-Mahmood expresses a widely held Sunni sentiment when he describes the protesters as "a certain group of Shiite [who have] been working ... to bring up their children on aggressiveness and hatred."

A youth faction of TGONU, Sahwat Al Fatih, which has called for harsh crackdowns on demonstrations, celebrated the anniversary of the counterrevolution this year by teaching followers "new ways to insult Shiites," according to Slaise. Bahrain's prime minister recently lauded the new movement's "unwavering, solid stances in defending the country's unity and integrity from any damage."

Shiite protesters insist their aims are not sectarian. Nabeel Rajab, head of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, says TGONU and Fatih were "made up" by the government "to fight Shia and to present the story in Bahrain as a Shia-Sunni conflict."

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