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Religious or Political Impasse in Bahrain National Dialogue?

Compromise or dialogue is the most fundamental basis of politics but religious radicalism refuses democratic decisions. The word dialogue has been hanging in the air since Ali Salman, Political Leader of Al Wefaq rejected dialogue at the height of the GCC Roundabout occupation in 2011, despite being urged personally by the Crown Prince. Western super powers have urged an end to the political gridlock and the King called for dialogue in January, with the first meeting scheduled for Sunday 10th February.

In February 2011 when radical groups occupied the GCC Roundabout and joined hands to call for the downfall of the government, it was a time of insecurity and a time when the majority watched and waited in silence. No one retaliated as long as the protestors remained within the boundaries of the roundabout. However, as March approached the protestors took to the streets and began a rampage of attacks on foreign workers and blocked entire neighbourhoods making them inaccessible to emergency services, businesses and the general public. People were hostages in their own homes. The largest government hospital in Manama was occupied, students were being encouraged to protest, the Bahrain University students had come under sectarian attack on campus and the country was grinding to a halt.

Police were forced to clear the roundabout in March 2011 when the situation had reached a peak of violence. Protestors had entered neighbourhoods, attacking, kidnapping and murdering workers in different parts of the country. In addition to this, the main highway linking the island was completely inaccessible and civilians were being attacked whilst driving or at traffic junctions. The roundabout was cleared without incident and the military safeguarded residential and business areas only. The GCC Shield was located at major installations and did not enter the mainland of the island. During the clearing and rebuilding of some of the major roads that had been severely damaged or destroyed during the occupation, explosives and weapons were found supporting the fact that the so-called “peaceful activists” were in fact violent criminals.

For decades the government had endeavoured and succeeded in attracting foreign investment and business into a small country that had become the financial hub in the region. Radical groups created unpredictable violent scenarios and portrayed Bahrain as politically unstable using their political and international network; as a result the country suffered a major set back economically. The months that followed saw many businesses close shop in Bahrain and many expatriates left the country whilst Bahrainis were made unemployed. There was a sense of dismay at the continued violence with spiritual leaders giving brutal instructions to their followers. To gain further Western sympathy, protest organizers mobilized women protestors forcing the police to endure attacks until women riot police cleared the area. To gain even more sympathy and to avoid prosecution, religious clerics trained and deployed thousands of youth to carry out attacks. International media covered all these vicious incidents, unjustifiably referring to the moderate leadership as a dictatorship, but never condemned the ferocity of the extremists.

The West considers their own values of liberalism and democracy as universal, although behind the scenes political players know these values are designed for their own economic gains. The West has continued to interfere in Bahrain, without understanding the religious influence followers and the orders they are forced to obey. Religion in general spread messages of love and peace; so religious fundamentalism should not be dangerous in its purest form. It can even be a good thing if that religious influence can help society accept each other’s differences and learn to co-exist in a multi ethnic and multi religious society. However, in the case of the radical political leaders in Bahrain, they have entwined religion with nationalism and politics. The dominance clerics have over their followers is so powerful that they can mobilise groups of hundreds of people with a radical deposition with a single instruction. Leaders of these radical groups make every violent encounter justifiable using religion. The possibility of separating religion from politics is virtually impossible as they follow the Welayat Faqih principal. The belief is so deeply rooted that it eliminates the possibility of compromise, as this would imply rejecting the core principles of their religious leaders’ instructions. To have complete control over the followers, every celebration, gathering and meeting is turned into political upheaval based on the order of the religious leaders.

Education in Bahrain is free and these influential clerics have a duty; their duty is to educate the youth in the villages. It is the village elders’ responsibility not to raise a generation of delinquents who are unemployable and so religiously blinded that they damage their own future. When religious leader Isa Qassim called for “crushing the police” groups of youth took to the streets and began planned, organized and well executed attacks. To date their attacks with molotovs, home made bombs and weapons have killed and maimed police and civilians but since the clerics have not instructed them to cease these terrorist activities, these teenagers continue violence and celebrate each successful attack. All justified through religion.

Bahrain is a tolerant society with religions having places of worship given by the government. Business owners are from all walks of life and people are accustomed to living and working side-by-side different ethnicities. Religion has never caused a dilemma and infact one finds mosques, matams, temples and even a synagogue within the same block in the heart of the capital. The strength of Bahrain has always been the people who ooze warmth, welcoming strangers into their homes, not only into their country. Women have fought for rights since the fifties and the family law rejected by Al Wefaq has meant that shiaa couples choose to marry under the Sunni law to secure rights incase of death, inheritance, divorce, alimony or child custody.

The radical political groups’ clerics have abused their faith and their followers. They are fully aware that being elected would put them into a more powerful position making it an easier task to encourage and propagate more violence and fanaticism as a political tactic. These are not the principles that the Bahrain constitution is based on – the leadership is moderate and has always rejected radicalism. So, the opposition clerics meet governments around the world to gain sympathy in the hope of exerting external political pressure to secure their extremist undemocratic future, based on their sects’ fanatical philosophy.

On Wednesday Ali Salman, travelled to Russia and is expected back on Sunday. Let us not forget that 9th November 2009 was the 30th anniversary of the Iran hostage crisis and in the same year Ahmednejad’s re-election was recognized by Russia. Thousands of opposition Green Movement supporters considered this an act of contempt, they ignored the call to chant “Death to America” during the gathering and either stood in silence or chanted “Death to Russia”.

Radical political leaders are educated, charismatic and eloquent in sharing their dissatisfaction with Bahrain’s leadership in such a way that they portray themselves as victims to fool western media and governments. They recruit uneducated youth to commit terrorist acts in the name of religion and deny them education to maintain absolute control. These youngsters grow up unemployable in any society making it far easier for the religious clerics to suppress them. Their clerics legitimatize and manipulate followers and situations to achieve their politically radical goals and stand in the way of liberalism. It is the duty of world powers to take steps to discourage and stifle political extremism in the name of religion.

Governments around the world and international media have failed Bahrain. Despite international media and western governments having a massive audience across the globe they have not shared the truth. Instead of reporting facts, they have chosen the path of sensationalism and spread heavy-handed political messages regurgitated by the opposition groups, thus eliminating independent choice by the recipients. It is the responsibility of world powers to end religious politics and eliminate prejudice through education and awareness. It is their duty to work on building a global culture based on tolerance and expose influential radical religious clerics who stand in the way of an open-minded path to progress. The majority of the people from this tolerant country stands strong and categorically tells the world that Bahrain is not for sale.

May the Dialogue begin…

@SallyfromSaar

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One comment on “Religious or Political Impasse in Bahrain National Dialogue?

  1. Sorry Sally, sent comments as tweet and kept running out of space! Good article, well argued and agree with you on the issues you have raised on religion and the power of the mullahs et al through ‘control’ over the many ignorant followers and why there is no policy to work for an effective solution. My only reservation is on the later paras re the role of the intl media and the ‘victimhood’ of Bahrain to their unbalanced reporting. Many international journos complained that they were never able to get timely or authoritative views from Govt as people either didn’t respond or the ‘system of authority’ was so cumbersome and slow – and they had a story to file. I am a strong supporter of the Govt and the leadership with the same overall views that you have, but that there has been little or no work done at the VILLAGE level to win hearts and minds and really secure support so that people became less afraid to actually come out for the Government. What was required – and still is to some measure if the Dialogue fails is a respone to a low-key guerrilla war rather than an often ineffective policing action in which the opposition only do not need to lose, to ‘win’. National policies are all very well but there also needs to be consolidation work at the village level to give those in the villages who see nothing but victimhood, A real stake in their society and a view contrary to the ‘Government doesn’t care for you’ as delivered by Ali Salman, Qassim and cohorts. Yes, it is slow work, and will come with setbacks but to only rely on broad national policies (free education, welfare etc) is not enough

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