27 January 2007

Early warning system

So, a good portion of us is deaf and blind. There is also a theory that our government is just another blind leading the blind. I refuse to accept that. I will continue to believe that our government is just.. distracted. Between deciding what type of cars to give to parliament members and how to advertise Bahrain's impeccable investment environment (watch CNN please), who has time to follow the news or maintain law and order?

Yet for sure an attack on a Shi'ite mosque by some Sunni newly-naturalized gang isn't less important that the price of tomatoes. So, as my own very humble contribution to the opening of eyes here, I'm proposing an early detection system for sectarianism in Bahrain. It's actually very simple: when an attack happens, that's when you arrest people (I'm a genius).

Accordingly, the ransacking "Saasa'a Bin Sohan" Mosque in Askar 2 days ago, as reported by the mosque's keeper, was a good occasion for the police to interfere, maybe invetigate, or possibly arrest the people. The custodian of the mosque, Haj Ahmed AlBurainain, who is a Sunni by the way (but from the good old days when it didn't matter), reported that the attackers refused to listen to his pleas to stop and proceeded to vandalize the mosque, calling it a "place of non-believers." He says it was a newly-naturalized Syrian gang. Fine, that's another reason why Bahrain should look into its genius demographic engineering program, but their origin really does not make a difference to this incident or to the price of rice in China. Violence in itself is unacceptable and needs to be treated as such..

Now I know it's an isolated incident and again probably the police just had better things to do (e.g. learn Arabic), but in these days one incident is dangerous enough! Al-Watan newspaper aside, one attack on a place of worshop should be enough to prompt the law enforcement to take measures. I mean, we still have Bandar-gate shadows over our heads. Of course, there are those who would be delighted to see sectarian tensions escalate and may even use that an excuse to take away the 1 molecule of democracy we have now, but I would like to believe there are other reasonable elements in the government and top leadership too. Surely they wouldn't want people to take justice into their own hands?

Note: picture of Haj AlBuainain is courtesy of BahrainOnline


Chanad said...

I was going to post about this when I saw it on BOL but you beat me to it.

This is quite disturbing, but not the first time this has happened. I think the mosque was also vandalized during the 90s (along with several other shia mazarat).

Asides from this, one must also ask why this site has not been developed. As the tomb of one of Ali's companions, it is perfect for religious tourism. But it is not listed in any tourist books, there are no direction signs on the road, and no information about the site's history (well there is a piece of paper stuck on the walls inside the shrine explaining its significance in arabic). Surely, some tourists might be interested in this rather than visiting a random tree.

isagreatphilosopher said...

The government position on sectarianism is clearly hyporcitical, like in many other areas the official statements are not necessarily consistent, infact mostly inconsistent, with the actions the government undertakes. I will spend a few minutes providing some evidence that supports the argument underlying this hypothesis of mine, and then attempt to ellaborate some of the underlying reasons that could explain why this is the case.

Premises :
I. Officials claim to condemn sectarinism.
II. Officials influence/control the structure and content of the education system.

Conclusion I
Education system must at the least not promote sectarianism, if not convey the attitude of anti-sectarianism.

Evidence, Premise III
Islamic studies curriculums taught to students in schools are solely derived from Sunni sources, inspite of the majority of Bahraini population being Shi'ite. Shi'ite views are not only ignored, but the differences are often emphasized to the extent that certain shi'ite religious activites are told to make one an infidel.

Conclusion II
The inconsistency of empirical evidence and the first conclusion necessarily entails the falsity of one of the initial premises. If II is taken as a priori truth, via definition that is, then the first premise must be false.

Although this argument uses facts about our education system, it is in no way restricted to it. For premise II and evidence can be readily modified/replaced by facts that address : hiring policies, prosecution of vandals..etc

Why is it the case that this hypocritical position suffices with out leaders? well, the answer is simple I think, a clash of moral code and interests. An official cannot publicly state a morally abhorrent view, when representing a position of the government for sure, and expect no consequences. Any presidential candidate in the states would go as far as he could to prevent a situation in which he is forced to spill out his views on a morally controversial issue, like abortion, and homosexuality not long ago.
On the other hand, sectarianism could be in the governments interest in several ways. A simplistic view would state that dividing society would make it simpler for the government to pass his wishes even if it is not in the general interest of the country. It is essentially a second best outcome, if you as a leader of a country could not unite the people behind your will, then whatever fragmentation of society, so long as it does not bring about a civil war say, that allows that wills to be passed is the optimal choice.

In the case of education, the government has already applied such a policy, favoring some of the population over the others, namely the loyal ones over the non-loyal ones, the fact that they are Shi'ite or Sunni is arbitrary. When setting what the future generations are to be taught the government would be risking the wrath of the loyals if it is not to concern curriculums with their doctrine.
Or even that education was the method with which the government actually ensured the continuing existence, differentiation and allienation of different segments of the society.

My argument is some what simplistic no doubt, but it seeks to illustrate the position that I believe our goverment has placed it self into - no only with regards to our education system as displayed but in almost all areas of government policy - and thus cannot coherently claim to oppose sectarianism for it planted its seeds and in no way seriously attempted to carry-out some damage control policies, but this is another issue.

I rest my case.

Dilmun said...

No one I know reads Al-Watan. It is such a crap paper! (Yes, No one I know). There is a striking similarity between a Majlis in Jaw and Askar and one is Bani Jamrah and Sar (I had the fortunate luck to be part of both) In both cases we went *Sunnis and Shi'i* It was the same thing exactly. The looks shifted and stares from one group to another... The Askar folk stared the Shi'i like a bunch of kids in Africa staring at white reporter for the first time, and vice versa at the Ma'tam. My question is WHY WHY WHY?! I think the answer is pretty simple. Manama and Muharraq are slightly less Sectarian. We never focused on Askar, Jaw, Al-Door, Zallaq, even West Riffa. We never cared to think of Malkiya, Duraz, Bani Jamrah in the sense that who do these people mix with who do they talk to who are their friends?! Why am I more tolerant, and not as anal?! I think its because I have friends from the other Sect. I think its because I grew up interacting normally like one does. So I see the similarities more than the differences. So these villagers (sunnis and shi'i) grow up not interacting and this is what you get. SURPRISED? I'm not.

LuLu said...

Chanad I'm glad to see you here. I agree on the negligence point. No one seems to care about historical or religious site. In fact, with the way the country is progressing, I wouldn't be surprised if someone comes up and asks for their destruction as "sherk" places.

isagreatphilosopher there are definitely inconsistencies in the government position, and much of it is intentional, but I have reservations about treating the government as one integrated, unified unit. I think there are many different elements in the government working in many different directions. It's quite scary. I don't believe Bahrain has a real leadership that knows where it's going or where it wants to go.

Dilmun your point is really interesting. But I can't ignore that the attackers in this case are naturalized "new" citizens. I worry that the country is naturalizing foreign elements that are just so alien to our culture (which is definitely marked by, if not acceptance, then at least tolerance), that future clashes may be inevitable.. Those people actually believed it's OK to vandalize the place.

costa-guy said...

thank you for the topic

Dilmun said...

I hate Syrians

Chanad said...

Lulu, I think you're right that this isn't simply a Sunni-Shia issue, because the assailant were naturalized citizens. There have been a number of reports over the past ten years of conflict between newly naturalized citizens and older residents in tribal Sunni villages like Askar, Jaww and Galali.

Second, I don't think that the Sunni-Shia issue in Bahrain is so much about the level of interaction. Yes it plays a role, but I don't think it is the most important factor. For example, Muharraq is the home to one of the most sectarian movements in the country (Al Menbar). And on the other hand, the custodian of the Sa'sa'a shrine is a tribal Sunni from Askar.