Reflections on Patriotism

Zara:

i feel angry at mahmood’s reaction. it surprises me to see him take this position. and it surprises me even more that people posting have not commented on it.

I feel angry at myself for jumping to this conclusion Zara. But follow my reasoning please: I’m a law abiding citizen who loves his country like the vast majority of my fellow Bahrainis. I am disgusted by the swathe of crimes we have had over the last few weeks, each one more horrific than the last. I am devestated that Mohammed and Sarah have lost their father in these circumstances.

I am disgusted by the continuous robberies and thefts which have become so common that they’re deemed unworthy of being reported.

I am disgusted by the muggings and violent crimes which appear to have risen to an alarming rate lately.

But that increase in crime cannot be blamed solely on the Ministry of Interior; however, the majority of the blame DOES fall at its doorsteps whether they like it or not. It is their mandate to ensure that people in this country are safe from harm. Unfortunately, they are remiss of that responsibility and the major gaping hole which people blame them for is non other than the complete loss of faith of the police.

Yes, the new minister has done wonders to the image, he brought some modern methods into the ministry, he has gotten rid of some of the expats who constituted the majority of its workforce, and in some sectors still do. He has started the Community Police initiative which people have come to like to see on the beat. He has even mounted some classes on human rights and the rights of people when apprehended to his own workforce. These are all good things which are much overdue.

But although these take away some of the bitterness of how people regard the police establishment in this country, it is not enough.

Would YOU for instance feel comfortable approaching a policeman or woman to ask for directions? I bet if you are over 30 you would not, as that generation has been conditioned from birth to fear these ogres. Even now, I would not feel comfortable talking to a policeman because the feeling in the back of my mind is that this guy, who probably didn’t even bother to finish his primary school has got so much power that he could throw me in prison and my family wouldn’t know that I was there for days if not weeks, now add to the fact that the guy couldn’t even speak my own language properly and you could not but feel aggrieved that the policing of this society has been abrogated and given to foreigners completely disconnected from our own ways and cultural nuances!

The same goes very true to those put in place not only in the police but also the military apparatus who lack education and modern outlook on the world, and who have a value system completely foreign to our own. What JJ mentioned is just the tip of the iceberg. I dare you, as a woman to go walk in one of their neighbourhoods in Riffa or any other of their congregation points.

And they are given guns too.

Yes, I realise that I am generalising here, and yes I recognise that some of them – probably a sizable portion of them – are good people and I am painting them with a broad brush. However look at the happenings concerning them in MY lifetime and you will realise my prejudices are shared by quite a lot of my generation.

Now let’s get back to the heinous crime of killing Mohammed, and let’s measure my reaction based on the facts above and the exigencies of the case:

1. Who in this country has free or easy access to guns?
2. Who in the past few years been involved in gun crimes in Bahrain?
3. What has been done to them?

The first I have already answered in the post. The second is clearly from the Ministry’s own statistics (don’t have a link) and what has been reported in the papers that they are of the military or security forces, and the third point is I don’t know! I didn’t see a clear conviction reported in the press of these people, and no example has been made of them as far as I can see.

Now leave all of these prejudices aside, and think of this: these people who are chosen to handle guns in a society where gun possession is illegal and foreign, MUST be submitted to psychological evaluation. And those who do not value human life as the rest of us should not be given the opportunity to have guns. I didn’t say that all new (or old) Bahrainis should be profiled. I didn’t even suggest it. My suggestion here is to all those people who have been given the responsibility to handle guns.

I am also completely against foreigners being given any position within the security instruments. If there is a foreigner to be employed as such, s/he should be employed on merit only, in the persuits of transfer of technology, training, bomb disposal training, and any of the available positions which the person’s experience could be benefitted from and used to educate Bahrainies. But as to the low- and medium-end of the scale, I am absolutely against. So those thousands of “natoors” and police and whatever there are at the ministries of interior and defence, ship them the hell OUT. When I stop a police or military guy in the street to ask for directions I WANT TO HEAR A BAHRAINI ACCENT, savvy? When I go into a police station to report something or ask for assistance I WANT TO HEAR A BAHRAINI ACCENT. Nothing less will do.

No one can look after something more than its owner, Bahrainis are better at policing and protecting Bahrain than foreign mercenaries.

i think it would be fair and rational to argue that different cultures have had profound impact on each other and particularly in this region are not so alien to each other as you are suggesting.

Of course most of those mercenaries are as far away from our culture as the moon is from Pluto for goodness sake! Where do you think those people come from culturally? The desert of the mountains. Go look at the crimes accepted in their countries, from honour killing to keeping boys as their playthings, abusing them until they grow up and abuse more and that is almost accepted in their cultures! It is also very apparent that they’re approach to human life is rather blaze, witness the head-cutting and summary killings that happen between their tribes. Look it up.

Finally, i really take issue with your whole ‘loyalty’ question.
I don’t know if the horrible incident aroused some fatherly/patriarchal feelings in you but my question is:
shouldn’t people be loyal to the other PEOPLE they are living in community and society with, rather than some “national” concept of being loyal to the geographical boundaries (which we did not draw up) and we are confined to, or the flag it has been given to wear?
Because unless its about loyalty to the people you’re living with then its just partiotism based on a very selective and exclusive idea of nationality – ie that you can only be bahraini if you are an arab, or a muslim etcetc…

A Gulf Air stewardess carrying the Bahrain Flag on the BIC race-track during an F1 eventThat’s worth considering. My idea of loyalty and patriotism is being at pains to do good for my country and countrymen, regardless of ethnic or religious background, and do my utmost to try to correct wrongs as I see them and defend those who deserve defending. One of the most encompassing definitions of patriotism I have ever read comes from Zainab Al-Khawajah‘s blog, in which she highlights the following Mark Twain interpretation:

“Patriotism is supporting your country all the time, and your government when it deserves it.”

Now I fully admit that where I went astray in my assumptions in the original article is that I didn’t even consider that smuggling arms into Bahrain is not unfeasible, and I immediately – because of my inherent prejudices – shot the accusation straight at the armed forces. That I apologise for even if the killer is proven to be from the armed forces. I should have given them a little more benefit of the doubt and considered things in a less passionate and prejudicial form.

Everything else i have said in the original post and this one I stand by.

There is an intrinsic mistrust between the people and those chosen to protect them that the country just cannot move forward without fixing this disconnect first and foremost.

Then we can work diligently at all the other mistrusts in our other structures, from the unfair and haphazard laws, the partial and non-independent judiciary, the skewed and blatant distribution of electoral districts, the dearth of government information and statistics, the unbalanced distribution of wealth, and various other things that is dragging this country and its people down.

The sad thing is that all of these things are so doable! We have the people to effect change, we have the leadership to direct them, we have the real love of the people to their land, we have all of the factors to make things happen… we just need someone brave enough to push the button and start the real age or reformation.

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17 Comments
  • Ibn
    23 August 2006

    Mahmood,

    Your post touches on many aspects of government and political life, leaders, the citizenry, weapons, etc. And I think you are right on the mark in just about all too.

    -Ibn

  • Ingrid
    24 August 2006

    Amen to the Mark Twain quote. Being a non American living in the US, I ought to memorize it and use it to shut up those blind, Bush sheep followers. Economically, it is totally reasonable to want your compatriots to be employed before an outsider. Preferably, you’d employ foreigners, when there is too much work and too few people in the work force to fill the positions. However, where does that happen? In the West, they’d have to include refugees, immigrants, asylum seekers etc. to include in the work force. As for you not feeling comfortable with policemen, I can see that. In saudi (my only gulf reference, I had no problem with Bahraini customs) the customs guys were not always (trying to be fair, I’ve had a few reasonable ones who allowed me some slack in bringing in a Cypriot icon or a piglet calendar) too bright and thoroughly enjoyed giving you a hard time. Ah the sense of power, it pretty well looked like a happy glow on the face.. so, I can relate to the experience, albeit wrong country!
    Ingrid

  • rabidflea
    24 August 2006

    dis postie is tooo long for my attention span

  • Anonymous
    24 August 2006

    “When I stop a police or military guy in the street to ask for directions I WANT TO HEAR A BAHRAINI ACCENT, savvy? When I go into a police station to report something or ask for assistance I WANT TO HEAR A BAHRAINI ACCENT. Nothing less will do.”

    I believe the government feels it cannot trust The Shia sufficiently to allow large numbers of them to be armed. I think they are fearful of a call to arms by Mullah’s X,Y and Z. After all we have yet to see a shia demonstration or political march that did NOT have beards and turbans at the front. We could argue that police do not all need to be armed, ref UK, and that Bahrain is mostly a gun free society, so why not have Shia bobbies. Again I think the government does not trust that, even after training, these Shia cops would arrest their own sect members especially is the cop sympathised with the offender.
    Also in this small community many of us are related by some thread. Can the Bahrainis be trusted or relied on to arrest or detain a family member?
    The traffic dept is manned by Bahrainis virtually exclusivley, I know all the Bahrainis on this blog have, at some time or other, “got out of” some traffic violation because of ‘wastda’. Why wouldn’t that be the case with public security?
    The Pubilc Security force of BAhrains future needs to pledge its alleigance to DISCIPLINE first, DUTY second, NATION third.
    For that to happen I think the Pub Sec force must believe the juditiary is independent and not Sunni friendly. When we as Bahrainis are sure that the law is implemented evenly, it (The Law) will have real weight and meaning. Only then can we hope to hear across Bahriani society “Well the law is the law and that’s the end of it.” At the moment well over half the society does not hold that belief, it has no respect for or trust in the legal process.
    Judicial reform in Bahrain is a whopping great big can of worms that no one has the courage or inclination to tackle. Would you care to offer a road map of how this reform could be implemented?
    How about First and Formost creating an industrial Tribunal, and releiving the court system of the hundreds of these backlogged cases. This would be pure arbitration with plaintiff and prosecutor presenting their cases under the current labour law, to Bahraini referees who are appointed independently of the government by commitee, and who comprise of local business men who would be doing a type of jury duty but presiding rather than sitting in a jury. The referee would have to adjudicate over, say, 30 cases each per year. The commitee would appoint 30 such referees, and they would be noted for their impartiallity and fairness. Cases could not be adjurned unless serious illness or an act of God prevented the case from being heard. We could get through 900 cases a year!
    Secondly, work must begin on a jury system. Law should be administered and enforced by the word of the people. We need to move away from this exclusive magistrate system. Jury selection would be a matter for The Bahrain Law society.
    Look, these are just my ideas please feel free to pick them to pieces!
    Live long and prosper

    PT

  • liz
    24 August 2006

    What countries are these police officers from? I’ve never heard of a country hiring foreign police officers.

  • mahmood
    24 August 2006

    Liz, traditionally they have been brought from Pakistan, India, Yemen, Syria, and Jordan. The military also brings in people from the Sudan.

    Mark Bahrain as one of those countries which made it a habit not to trust its citizens.

  • mahmood
    24 August 2006

    PT, maybe the overriding thing that the government needs to do is find ways to start trusting its own citizens, rather than copping out time and again that “beards” and “flags” are the proof that 70% of its population are untrustworthy.

    If that is the case, then maybe the government and the ones of the remaining 30% should just fuck off the island.

    I’m really sick of this traditional cop out. If efforts are not made by everyone to start trusting each other as Bahrainis, and treating each other like partners with the same sights to the future, then a civil war should be the order of the day and let’s start killing each other. Maybe then we will end up with people who have been forcibly awakened from a deep stupor and finally realise that this is the major problem that must be resolved.

  • Anonymous
    24 August 2006

    Mahmood, don’t missunderstand me my friend. I FEEL the same way as you do, but to understand the governments stance and the reasons for it is the first step to undoing what has been so tightly done up!
    This “Traditional cop out” still engenders fear among the populace, what I would to see are practical methods of moving forward.
    We know what the theories are, but unless we can brain storm an equitable solution theory will remain theory and the status quo remain unchanged. What concessions, in the very early stages, need to be made on both sides? How can we foster trust? Whats sysytems theoretical or otherwise could be applied to our situation.
    I understand why you think the goverment is trying to cop out of it’s obligations to its’ citizens, but change in government only comes when there is nowhere for them to turn, and legislation is introduced that cannot be refuted or disgarded. I think a road map to intergration is also vital, and for a template for that we can look towards the Rainbow Nation, who despite some early setbacks, have emmerged with a Nation of Equals under the law.
    I disagree that civil war is a solution to anything. The vileness of a proxy war between Saudi and Iran would be the only result of that course of action, and it would be solely at our expense.

  • Lujayn
    24 August 2006

    Mahmood, question:

    Do these officers/policemen that are from Pakistan, India, Yemen, Syria, and Jordan have Bahraini citizenship? Trying to understand the issue.

  • mahmood
    24 August 2006

    Yes, the vast majority do as I understand it.

    It goes like this: Almost none have education past the 6th primary level. I have no idea what the recruitment interview is like, but when selected, the local lore goes that they get on a plane, they arrive completely bewildered and dazed, they disembark and a the welcoming committee provides them with all they need: a clothing stack containing underwear, vests, uniform, amunition belt, gun, toothpaste and toothbrush which they dutifully demonstrate the use of (the mouth hygene part, rather than the shooting part, they’re already presumably proficient in that art) as well as a towel and atop the towel is a brand new Bahriani passport. Oh, and a house or housing.

    I have no idea if that is true, but this is what my fellow locals tell me.

    Yet, if you read the piece I linked to above, you will see that some of these people are still regarded by their mother countries as its citizens and still demands their military service and payment of taxes. Something that an esteamed MP has taken ubrage at and has created a ruckus for the Ministry of Foreigh Affairs to take very seriously and support these brand new Bahraini citizens.

  • Anonymous
    24 August 2006

    Lujayn, They are given a very specific type of citizenship, yes its a Bahraini passport, but if they wanted to travel anywhere else in the world they would require a visa, including all Gulf countries. This is not the case for Bahrainis Arabs who can travel without visas in the Gulf.
    Also, the foreign ‘Bahraini’ police may not own property here nor can they vote. Only when they have been resident in Bahrain for a specific amount of time, 15 years for non Gulf Arabs and 20 or 25 for Asians and others can they apply for full citizenship, and even then, it’s not given that they’ll get it.
    PT

  • mahmood
    24 August 2006

    PT I don’t believe that. Doing that would be completely unconstitutional. Bahraini citizenship now does not have any classification. Once a Bahraini, then you enjoy all the rights and privileges from day 1.

    It used to be that it is written in the passport that you are Bahraini by birth, or according to the 5th paragraph, or 6a or by marriage or because you owned a nice camel that the Shaikh liked.

    Now, the constitution states that all Bahraini citizens are equal without prejudice.

    So if the government does indeed grant them this abridged form of citizenship, then it is unconstitutional and any one of these ‘New’ Bahrainis can take them to court and win a full citizenship.

  • Anonymous
    25 August 2006

    What about the thousands being given the citizenship lately? i have been reading about it on some blogs…. goverment getting ready for the elections eh mahmood?

  • mahmood
    25 August 2006

    And the contentious e-Voting, and we have it made!

  • derwi
    25 August 2006

    It would probably be worth checking the electoral law in detail. Some countries mandate a certain peridode before a new national can vote. Were the government indeed trying to shift the Sunni / Shia balance such a regulation wouldn’t make sense, obviously… Anyways, I’ve searched the internet for an online version of the electoral law, but to no avail. Do you, Mahmood, or anyone else know of a link?

  • mahmood
    25 August 2006

    I’ll look it up, it should be readily available.. but in Arabic.

  • Desert Island Boy
    25 August 2006

    Perhaps PT is confusing requirements for citizenship eligibility with actual citizenship? I’m not certain, but it just sounds like the eligibility requirements.

    On the other hand, if their average education level is hardly past primary school, then they could be given Siberian citizienship and they wouldn’t know the difference.

    Additionally, if the star of the show resorted to the purported action, then it’s rather doubtful that the use of the judicial system would have crossed their minds, much less any respect for it!

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