Collective punishments

27 May, '08

There are a few things that suggest that our society is in a desperate state. The indicators are probably best exemplified by the exclusionary standards our parliamentarians and their electorate take. Both are quick to condemn whole peoples, nations and even civilizations due to isolated incidents without taking one second to reflect on our own shortcomings and our non-exclusive ownership of basic human values.

Some might attribute this collective psyche as a result of the insular lifestyle attributed to island communities, but the irony is that people of these islands until very recently were an awful lot more tolerant and receptive to other cultures than its current breed is.

What happened? Why is it that the more open to the world they get the more insecure they become? What could explain this other than in terms of a severe inferiority complex?

If you talk to Bahrainis fortunate enough to have lived in the 70s and before, they will categorically tell you that they have never experienced anything like this, they will confirm that they didn’t give their neighbour’s race or religion much importance. They will further tell you that they habitually interacted with each other in various ways; they visited, conducted business and even fought the British occupation together by forming and maintaining a cohesive multi-cultural front that crossed confessional divides. The common denominator was their Bahraininess which surpassed every other consideration. They celebrated their differences, rather than diligently work at finding the chinks to exploit in each others’ armor.

The stark contrast between that era and now could not be more evident. What we now have is an acutely insular society with impenetrable walls propped up by suspicion and hatred of the other. This “us and them” atmosphere is condoned by the government – regardless of how many denials we hear from their higher echelons – evidenced by the selective employment policies, the conditional awards of constitutionally guaranteed citizen benefits and the disparity in economic circumstance.

It has unfortunately become our way of life. So much is this in evidence, it is no wonder to witness the parliamentarians’ reactions; whether it be the condoning of the use of chemical weapons against their own society simply because in the current state of affairs demonstrations are mounted by the opposing sect, or their continued theft of their electorate’s personal freedoms or even their demand to expel and ban whole countries’ nationals due to the isolated incidences of the few.

We are all shocked and saddened by the unfortunate and violent recent demise of Mr. Dossary, as we are of Mr. Abbas Alshakhoori and the others who have fallen victims of unusual circumstances, but those incidents, painful as they are, hardly illicit the demand for the application of the collective punishment demanded by a major political society. Identify and punish the criminals by all means and make examples of them by fairly and fully applying the law, but those incidents should never be allowed to colour our psyche to the extent that we allow our own elected representatives to exercise their myopic beliefs without even a smidgeon of objection. And it is even worse when the government itself acts in such an unwarranted and unstudied kneejerk reaction as to impose such a ban on its own recognizance without any regard for its international obligations or even basic diplomacy.

Let us remind them that their role is to ameliorate differences and protect the national unity, and not diligently and wantonly work at exacerbating them. The demand to expel and ban Bangladeshis because of the unfortunate result of a single person’s moment of anger is tantamount to our agreement to the entrenchment and even encoding xenophobia as our main Bahraini trait.

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Comments (26)

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  1. ali12 says:

    Does Bahrain actually recognize the state of Bangladesh now? When asked about the ban, what do they answer? 1 Bangladeshi is a killer, all of them are killers? The Government of Bangladesh is responsible for the acts of 1 of their citizens in a foreign country? Can this case be taken to the International Tribunal and Bahrain to be punished and set example? I’m not sure what is the export/import business of Bahrain with Bangladesh (let alone our dependancy with such labor), but there are private losses at stake. Can Bangladesh please impose a similar ban? Can Bangladesh please go to the UN and declare this discrimination to be illegal? Is Bahrain secretly now at war? What could explain this incredible action of hatred and rejection??? So if a Bahraini kills an American on American soil, Bahrain is banned? and Vice Versa? I could imagine if this is applied globally that only a very few countries would be deemed ‘acceptable’ to travel to. What a future that would be!

  2. Anonny says:

    Well, is it the sectarian nature of the killings that disturb the govt? There was Mrs Jalahema a year or two back, then a Dossary is killed. Perhaps if a Bangladeshi kills a Shakhoori or a Ghuloom-dashti the govt. will reconsider its stance. Who knows what the thought process is these days?

  3. Reeshiez says:

    This is the most ridiculous thing that I’ve heard and is blatant racial discrimination. I can’t believe our government did this and that many people support this law. You can’t punish an entire nation for isolated incidents by their citizens. How would bahrainis feel if all arabs were banned from coming to the US because a random Bahraini killed an American citizen? I am completely disguisted. Is there anything we can do? A campaign or something? This is a really scary law. If it is implemented and not repealed then it will be the beginning of many such laws.

  4. heraish says:

    This could be a situation where the governments are singling out a community from a poor country to deflect pressure from themselves.

    Looks like a dirty game in the region. Furthermore it is hypocritical for the religious parties to buy into this. What kind of religion are they preaching.

  5. Staci says:

    By the parliamentarians’ logic it would seem that there should be no one left in Bahrain. I’m sure looking back in the recent history of the several murders that take place in Bahrain each year, all nationalities will be implicated including Bahraini themselves. Okay, perhaps they’ll be some random nationality unimplicated, like Icelanders or something, who would be left to rule the country, all three of them.

    In all seriousness, though, this is a critical symptom that ethnic and racial tensions are mounting in Bahrain in a general sense and that larger programs, like dialogue across groups and educating people about the unique diversity that makes Bahrain tick, are sorely needed. Thank you Mahmood for keeping this dialogue going online despite all the obstacles.

  6. Sam says:

    When is this going to be challeneged on an international level? The government’s actions are clearly in violation of our own darn constitution! This is pure and utter discrimination. This country wants to criminalize everyone who just happens to be born Bangladeshi or is a citizen of that nation.

    educating people about the unique diversity that makes Bahrain tick, are sorely needed

    Staci I agree, however as a nation we’ve never celebrated diversity. Bahrain’s such a mixed bag when it comes to origins & creeds and yet we actually see effort being put into creating social devides and the pigeon holing of people.

  7. Darth says:

    I guess our Government are going for the calmer Hindus of India or Buhdists of Nepal, and Thailand and even China. I mean Muslims are just too violent, and Bangladesh are full of them. I mean imagine what kind of precedent this is setting for European countries and America, who actually get bombed randomly and constantly by idiots who are muslims and some times even arab. God forbid they make their minds up and decide to ban us from entering their countries. Thankfully they are the developed more civilized they only take a few of us and keep us on an island called Guantanimo they didn’t decide to punish all muslims collectively. But we think muslims are evil doers and if we could maybe we’d even bomb them. But we can’t … I mean what the hell is going on seriously. Lets find a new way to screw construction companies. 90,000 Bangladeshis hmmm we don’t need them … I wonder if we thought of this differently and looked at the disgusting situations we put them through hauling them like sheep on a 6 wheel truck I mean seriously people!?!? I wouldn’t do that to my dog or cat! and lastly, we don’t even know if it was murder in the first degree yet, for all we know this could be manslaughter or the guy taking the machine into his own hands we need to the let courts and lawyers figure it out before we start screaming foul…. oh sorry in this country your guilty until proven innocent I guess… except if your mansoor bin rajab who’s guilty proven innocent but somehow he’s still guilty…

  8. Hamad says:

    I think all arabs should be ban from Intering the US after september 11 here we are talking about 3,500 americans in one day not one person :mrgreen:

    Im wondering why Mr.Dosseri choosen to figth with لحام

    He should read the CV of the person before creating a figth

    gad bless him


  9. Sadek says:

    The irony is we hear from these bearded Asala gentlemen the continous mantra that they’d like to introduce the justice of our religion to the entire umma. But wait a minute is not Bangladesh an Islamic state with a great majority of muslims and part of the umma? So these members of the umma have to be isolated and banned, because they are genetically predisposed to crime? Could they by extension also apply it to others – we’ve heard their opinion about Thais and Philippinos, sexual “deviants”, liberals, christians, Europeans and Americans and women. What next? The problem is instead of being ignored they are given the time of day. Eyab.

  10. Kiwi Nomad says:

    On reflection, these Asala gentlemen and their like-minded brethren who have rascist tendencies are acting as atheists. They don’t seem to reflect on what God may want or think. If they were muslims wouldn’t they be working to stop racial discrimination? So call them what they are, and what they actually stand for, even if they think they’re doing it in the name of islam.

  11. Sam says:

    these Asala gentlemen and their like-minded brethren who have rascist tendencies are acting as atheists. They don’t seem to reflect on what God may want or think.

    Do you not find it wrong to suggest racism is a trait exclusive to atheists?

  12. mahmood says:

    On reflection, these Asala gentlemen and their like-minded brethren who have rascist tendencies are acting as atheists.

    You need to reflect a bit more on that thought Kiwi.

    I would rather distance religion and beliefs completely away from morals and associate those with basic humanist values, regardless of faith.

  13. Kiwi Nomad says:

    Do you not find it wrong to suggest racism is a trait exclusive to atheists?

    No, I don’t suggest racism is exclusive to any faith. And to clarify further I think there is a distinction between followers of faiths and religions, and actual “believers” in God (or Allah).

    I would rather distance religion and beliefs completely away from morals and associate those with basic humanist values, regardless of faith.

    Mahmood, I think beliefs and morals are inextricably linked… I don’t want to detract too far from the good points you made, but my point is that what we believe provides the basis for our morals. A human can choose to believe in God/Allah, or not. If a person believes in God/Allah, then you can assume they will try to act in a way that confirms their beliefs. Supporters of discrimination against Bangladeshis or any other nationality, or race, sex, faith, or whatever, don’t appear to be following God/Allah’s teachings.

    Picking up on Sadek’s earlier point, the Asala gentlemen want to introduce God’s justice, yet that means that they don’t trust God to provide justice, they feel they need to do it themselves. They are acting as if they can’t rely on God… and hence my comment on them acting as atheists (or at least agnostics).

  14. Bugs says:

    Two people coming from influential tribes are killed by migrant workers, and these workers happen to come from Bangladesh. As a result, the state bans all Bengalis from coming into Bahrain. The problem is that the state is quick to blame the Other for being the problem. Why can’t they for once see their own faults? These two people did not kill without a motive.

  15. Anonny says:

    Why can’t they for once see their own faults? These two people did not kill without a motive.

    What are you saying, Bugs? Mrs. Jalahema had her throat gashed by use of the sharp edge on a broken cup. It was a savage and brutal attack. What was her “fault”? Think before you answer.

    And in what way did Mr. Dosary deserve what happened to him? What “motive” makes it acceptable? What was his “fault”? Again, please think before you answer.

    Obviously this banning of Bangalis is a racist act, but according to your lights, maybe we should look at the “motives” of the Ministry of the Interior. No? Then I guess you are a hypocrite.

  16. I’ll stay out of all that nonsense on Religion that Kiwi started going on about (aside from calling it nonsense).

    Make no mistake, as wonderfully multicultural as Bahrain is, this political, ethnic and class based racism is on the rise. If anything, what we’ve seen here, with the call to ban all Bangledeshi’s for the crimes of one or two individuals, is just a manifestation of that racism in a more extreme sense.

    Most every community suffers from this, so I’m not going to blame Arabs purely for it… its just always surprising to me, that any community, regardless of the collective discrimination they face, has a tendency to complain about being stereotyped or branded, while collectively doing the same to another group.

  17. Bugs says:


    I do not sympathies with the murderers, but we have to learn from our mistakes as well. We have to ask ourselves what triggered their anger. We cannot take sides otherwise we will have similar scenarios occurring in the future.Banning Benglis from coming into Bahrain will not solve the problem.

  18. Sam says:

    Nobody should have the right to murder and take the life of another person irregardless of the actions of the other person. Our tit-for-tat governmental policy now means that two families will be greiving the loss of a loved one.

  19. Ibn says:

    Jesus this is so retarded. I never, never cease to be completely sideswiped and amazed at this level of xenophobia in the Khaleej.

    If you ask me, they are on a power-trip. Give anyone absolute power and they will be sure to abuse it eventually.


  20. bah says:

    lets not forget that the unfortunate soul who was horrifically murdered by the bengali worker was from the Dossary tribe which is one of the biggest ally tribes to the ruling Al-Khalifa tribe all of which with saudi roots.

    the ban wont last just like it didnt last more than a year in Kuwait. this is basically a show of tribal pride from the tribal elements in the government. the ban will be taken off after a while and mark my words.

    they are enforcing their sick tribalism and the people of Bahrain who never had this type of mentality these tribes invaded are stupidly following in their rulers path.

    they will all suffer from their attitudes sooner or later.

  21. mahmood says:

    I don’t think this “ban” is anything other than someone’s brainfart. All indications now by the government represented by Dr. Al-Baharna suggests that they’re clearing the stink and in actual fact no such ban exists.

  22. Jina says:

    Look at it this way, South Asia will in the next decade or two have the largest economy or the second largest. When this happen, there aren’t going to be that many migrant workers to the Gulf from South Asia because they’ll be able to find well paying jobs closer to home.

  23. Lee Ann says:

    I caught a headline in the paper today..didnt read the details though…but it mentioned that a Bahraini man was on trial for killing someone by beating them with a brick…so reasoning would suggest bahrainis be banned from Bahrain cause they are violent and contrary to the Islamic culture and peaceful pursuits…yes…no?

  24. Rashed says:

    Thanks a lot for raising this issue, Mahmood. I am of Bangladeshi origin and lived in Kuwait as a teenager. I witnessed various forms of discrimination there in the 1990s, and again when I went back to visit in 2006 (I do also have many good memories from Kuwait, though).

    So I’m glad to see that, as a Bahraini citizen, you are tackling the question of discrimination by nationality and the ill treatment of the working class which, in my view, is one of the single biggest causes of the negative reputation the Gulf has in other parts of the world.

    To Staci: Well said!

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