MUHARRAQ! Forgive me for leaving!

21 Oct, '10

I wish I never left Muharraq.

We lived in Arad for about 5 years in the 90s and it was great there. True, a rented house, but the neighbourhood, the people, and the feelings were unique, like no where else in Bahrain. It is not strange, therefore, that the island boasts the most integrated, and least sectarian atmospheres between Bahrainis. Even their cemetery is shared between Sunnis and Shi’as without a wall in between the graves. Nothing reminds me of my father like Muharraq. Although he lived most of his life in Manama, he was born there and it was there that incubated his most precious memories. Just looking at his paintings would immediately transport you to the magical narrow Muharraqi neighbourhoods he grew up in.

With the elections only a couple of days away, I just look at my brothers and sisters in that beautiful island with envy for their real chance at effecting positive change in this country. With candidates like Ebrahim Sharif and Sami Siyadi, their choice should be easy when they tick the box. The same for those lucky voters in Isa Town as they have Munira Fakhro and they should proudly tick her box on Saturday. With these three, salvation for this country’s ills is at hand if they are given the slim chance to effect change.

Not so when it comes to my chosen area of abode now. Now, I have half-wits and nincompoops to choose from! Two women who’s electioneering campaign ran on subjugating their women-kind even further by categorically declaring that they will not support Personal Status Law as that is against their religion. I doubt that they believe that, but they’re pandering to their electorate the majority of whom live within a stone’s throw of Isa Qassim, the supremo religious cleric in the area. The others include Al-Mitghawi from Diraz who appears to have spent the last four years in a coma on his bench in parliament, and then we have a couple of others trying their luck at the jack-pot; hey, they get 40% of their salary as pension after four years, so why not!

So who am I going to cast my vote for this time? Not much of a choice, and as I object to every single one of them in my area, I won’t bother. Not because I’m boycotting or abrogating my national duty, not at all, it’s because I genuinely don’t think that any of those running in my area deserve my vote. And there are no alternatives.

Of course this is exactly what happens if a country as small as ours has such an impotent way of districting. With a country not much bigger than a provincial town in India, wouldn’t you think that someone would think it better to declare the whole country as one district and then allow us voters to choose on anyone we think is best to represent us rather than having to be lumbered with what we have in our own little districts?

So my friends, although I’m not casting my vote this time, I throw my full weight unabashedly behind the three people whom I think can make a difference to this country’s future, and would do so without any sectarian or overt religious dogma.

I throw my full weight behind Ebrahim Sharif, Sami Siyadi and Muneera Fakhro.

Good luck, and just by running and engineering an election program which has educated the multitudes in this country, you have already won the hearts and minds of your fellow Bahrainis. I’m sure that if the elections are unbiased, true and fair, we shall see you in parliament soon.

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Comments (13)

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  1. Barwait Family says:

    Thank you Mahmood for injecting such postivity and joy into our political climate.

    We hope these three break all barriers and political ploys and write the first page of a new era of true democracy.

  2. I’m having the same issue and i was going to boycott the election when i just saw Lamees Dhaif and i told her about my situation she said to me i know but you had to chose the best from the worse dont let the worse come in the Perelman so i reschedule my thinking and decide to elect even he is not my choice but what to do let me have some hope with him , so thats my msg to you and for evryone lets really think who is the best from the worse, and all our prayers to waad team to be in the parliament

    • mahmood says:

      Cute! didn’t see that one before. What I would’ve like it to say though is “I’m Bahraini and love Muharraq” – subtle, but makes a difference.

      • Jeremy Bicha says:

        Isn’t that what the sign says?

        These signs were all over Muharraq 6 months ago. I’ll see if I can find some of the other pictures in the series & email them to you.

  3. Ali says:

    I appreciate your support for the three candidates you posted, and I wish to remind you that those whom live “within a stone’s throw of Isa Qassim, the supremo religious cleric in the area” are of the people that continue to fight for a fair and just country, including the cleric himself.

    You say that perhaps the women candidates themselves do not believe in what they’re saying about the Personal Status Law. I remind you that the those whom live “within a stone’s throw of Isa Qassim, the supremo religious cleric in the area” detailed their objections and requests in regards to the proposed government law. There were certain assurances that were asked for but clearly denied. I find it curious that you are able to go into peoples’ hearts and speak of what they have not shown, unless you “know” otherwise.

    Perhaps you do not see how with your words you step on peoples’ efforts and choices but I am but a reminder just in case you forgot.

    • mahmood says:

      Where did I state that Al-Wefaq, Isa Qassim or even the Asala and Minbar do not fight for a fair and just Bahrain? All of them do and all of them deserve the recognition and support for doing so. I do not have any issue with them in this regard.

      I do not share your view regarding the Personal Status Law. It does not – and should not, ever – receive a conditional constitutional amendment in order for it to be activated.

      As to stepping on people’s efforts, again, I fail to see how you identified that from what I wrote. I disagree with positions, sometimes strongly, but I do not negate their existence or their efforts into shaping this country for what they believe is for the better. If that vision does not reconcile with mine, I shall continue to call attention to the difference.

      • Ali says:

        “Two women who’s electioneering campaign ran on subjugating their women-kind even further by categorically declaring that they will not support Personal Status Law as that is against their religion. I doubt that they believe that, but they’re pandering to their electorate the majority of whom live within a stone’s throw of Isa Qassim, the supremo religious cleric in the area.”

        Somehow you just doubt what they have to say and move on. You seem to doubt (as a path towards negation) that such an opinion or belief would exist.

        As for your opinion in regards to the constitutional amendments for the Personal Status Law, I remind you that one of Bahrain’s largest rallies was in support of the constitutional amendment and not categorically rejecting the Personal Status Law, as some may suggest. Yes, each is entitled to her/his own opinions, but I wonder what happened to democracy and truthful and constructive criticism… Also, to somehow suggest that people are afraid of certain figures for being a stone throw away from them and to adjust their opinions based on that is very unfair to both sides (the figures and those of that opinion). I suggest that rather than personally attacking others, perhaps a more logical discussion would be fairer and more appropriate. I wonder to whose benefit personal attacks are? I would think nobody… God knows best.

        When we speak of national unity, we do not speak of disbanding ourselves from our religious ideologies; rather we speak of understanding each other and seeking justice and fairness together inspired by our beliefs of nothing prevailing but justice. We speak of letting our personal tendencies aside and allowing the light of justice to shine on us all. Apparently, it has become very easy to speak of nationalism in words nowadays, but when it comes to action, we find ourselves at fault… and I do not exculpate myself.

        My respects to you and your efforts, but consider me a person who reminds just in case you forgot.

        • mahmood says:

          As for your opinion in regards to the constitutional amendments for the Personal Status Law, I remind you that one of Bahrain’s largest rallies was in support of the constitutional amendment and not categorically rejecting the Personal Status Law, as some may suggest.

          Yes I remember that day distinctly, I was demonstrating on the other side for Personal Status Law. We were probably a minute fraction of the droves who acquiesced to the clerics orders to take to the street. We, on the other hand came out in conviction of what we were doing was right. I stood side-by-side with women who were wronged by their husbands and got doubly wronged by prejudiced clerics on the bench finding for their husbands. I could go on to various stories of course, but I suspect that you are familiar with the happenings of the Jaafari and Sunni courts in family affairs.

          I’m not “saying and moving on”, on the contrary, I like many others who want better for this country follow up with actions.

          When we speak of national unity, we do not speak of disbanding ourselves from our religious ideologies;

          I fully contend that we most definitely should. Religion should not be part of the political equation and it most definitely should not be the instrument to which we should govern with.

          Apparently, it has become very easy to speak of nationalism in words nowadays, but when it comes to action, we find ourselves at fault… and I do not exculpate myself.

          Sorry, I don’t follow your statement here. Are you suggesting that I’m not nationalistic, or don’t care, or don’t put action to words? Please explain.

          • Ali says:

            Sir… Thank you for your time and response. It seems like no matter how much longer we discuss this topic this way, we will be far from clarifying anything real, but I will just address the last two points you mentioned.

            I disagree with the liberal notion of completely disregarding any spiritual or religious ideology from the public sphere. It is based on the fallacy that there is a neutral space… one of the makings of the Renaissance movement and the marketings of the modern movement. Critics of such a notion can be found in the Frankfurt School with the likes of Walter Benjamin. The notion of a “neutral space” is one of the reasons movements like Surrealism and the Situationist movement came to place, yet they failed to have a lasting effect due to it failing to give a comprehensive response to many of humanity’s needs.

            As for nationalism and suggesting whether you are or are not nationalistic is not my business… In fact, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business. This game of who is more nationalistic and what is nationalism is an empty discussion that reminds of me of Egypt. All that pan-Arabism gone to waste…

            What I meant to say is that we falter when we speak of nationalism. Calling people droves or using terms like acquiescing is yet again another move by your respected self to delve into peoples’ hearts and tell us their intentions. Generalizations like that are against what you are seeking to do with your blogs and your movements. This is what I mean by us faltering…

            With prayers for your safety and success…

  4. mahmood says:

    I disagree with the liberal notion of completely disregarding any spiritual or religious ideology from the public sphere.

    I didn’t say that we should disregard religion from public space. I said specifically that:

    Religion should not be part of the political equation and it most definitely should not be the instrument to which we should govern with.

    Please read my response carefully. You are liberally paraphrasing what I said. You needn’t do that, I was quite clear and specific.

    Calling people droves or using terms like acquiescing is yet again another move by your respected self to delve into peoples’ hearts and tell us their intentions.

    Again, you’re not reading/understanding my response, or paraphrase it for your own ends. There is no generalisation in my statement, nor is there anything wrong with what I said; the words I use are absolutely legitimate and deliberate. I don’t see what you specifically object to to me using words like:

    droves: Usually, droves. a large crowd of human beings, esp. in motion: They came to Yankee Stadium in droves.

    acquiescing: to assent tacitly; submit or comply silently or without protest; agree; consent: to acquiesce halfheartedly in a business plan.

  5. Ali says:

    Sir…

    I like how you chose which definitions to put up. The word “droves” has a certain connotation in its use. So does the word acquiescing. Now… you may argue either way, but I do not wish to go there, and I will take your word for it (that you didn’t mean anything disrespectful or imposing).

    As for religion being or not being part of the political equation and an instrument for government as opposed not to being part of the public sphere is a very weird statement. The differentiation is somewhat odd. How so? Simply that democratic political process is the negotiation, determination and presentation of peoples’ will. Now, we can either be undemocratic and impose a certain nonreligious will on people, so that the religious opinion is no longer viable, or something else… I’m not quite sure.

    Religion is not just a set rules. The rules, if you wish, are just the surface; rather they are deep beliefs and convictions about a universal order. Now to divorce religion from politics suggests a “neutral space”. Yes, again… the issue of the “neutral space”. The suggestion that religion must not be part of the political equation somehow suggests peoples’ wills should be changed. I’m not so sure that is what we want…

    Perhaps a deeper look at our society and many of our “cultural” norms will show deep-rooted religious values and ideas, but anyhow…

    The public sphere is where political discussion happens, and if politics is any good, then it will reflect the “public sphere”.

    It’s time the liberal movement in Bahrain (and the Arab world, for that matter) criticized its foundations and ideas, for there is no greater success than in self-criticism and there is no real progress without real reflection. Usually such reflection happens in the quiet, and not with the public’s distractions.

    With prayers for your success dear respected uncle…

    • mahmood says:

      The negative connotations are only in your head Ali, not mine. And quit your hang-up on that “neutral space” theory, it’s clouding your vision even more.

      Now, we can either be undemocratic and impose a certain nonreligious will on people, so that the religious opinion is no longer viable, or something else… I’m not quite sure.

      I am.

      About half the population of Bahrain are non-Muslims. This is a fact. In a democracy, not only the majority must rule, but it also must protect the rights of minorities. In this case, the “minority” are actually a majority, or approaching it in numbers, so religious rule will put them at a distinct disadvantage.

      But even without that fact, about 1400 years of attempted religious rule has shown its failure, how long more do you wish for our countries to continue to be surpassed by the heretofore third-world countries to wake up from a non-functioning utopian dream that says that political Islam is the way?

      And keep your prayers to yourself. I don’t need them.

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