Like the Great War which started with a single bullet, Bahrain too can descend into real chaos by just a single, stupid, miscalculated, and unwarranted incident. The ground has never been as fertile as it is today to transform a spark into an inferno.
Let’s not dwell on the various incidents sponsored by extremists on both sides. Thankfully they have not yet found their resonance due mostly to the new and very laudable patience and understanding exhibited through the curtailed security forces, and the many opposition parties who have behaved in an exemplary and proactive fashion to contain further escalation and ameliorate inflammable passions.
But can the situation continue in such a manner for much longer?
None of the wars fought in history got resolved purely through violence. All ended through negotiations by sitting across tables on which highly complex issues were discussed and agreements reached; thus, saving countless lives in the process. I suspect that the treaties which endured were always a mutually acceptable and practical compromises in which the conditions for ending the hostilities were clearly defined, established common grounds and plotted the way forward to rebuilt not only the nation, but the shattered trust through atrocious acts of war. This is a much more difficult and courageous act than firing a gun or dropping a bomb, and this, unfortunately takes generations to repair.
The political societies have started talking with each other now. This is an excellent first step. We see that the leaders of the Unity Movement represented by Shaikh Abdullatif Almahmood and the seven core opposition parties sat across from each other for three hours yesterday to set up their vision and aspirations for the country. There is not a shred of doubt in my mind that every single person sitting at that table had the best interest of Bahrain at heart, and I know that through them a lasting solution to the situation shall be found. Unfortunately, those at the Pearl Roundabout were missing from that meeting and a concerted effort must be mounted soon in order to engage them in the process too. Their demands must be considered and integrated into the agenda. If the opposition now starts negotiating with them to advise them of the efficacy of their demands and timings, that would be even better.
With this development, I am more optimistic and am relatively confident that a resolution is within grasp. What can push that condition away; however, is any escalation in irresponsible behaviour, be that calls for more sectarian strife and differentiation perpetrated by so called religious leaders, or the intransigence of the protestors.
The protestors specifically must also realise that with the great freedom they are currently enjoying in expressing themselves and their freedom to assemble at will, their responsibilities by definition are now greater than ever. They must realise that any violence perpetrated by any single person within them now has the power to damage their credibility and that of their demands.
The last thing we need from them is to continue to unnecessarily block the movement of traffic, as they have at the Financial Harbour yesterday, or attack foreigners and locals who find themselves caught up in their midst by design or accident, or vandalise property and cars.
A more dangerous escalation would be to actively seek guaranteed confrontation, be that protesting in front of the Royal Court or any of the other sensitive vicinities. That’s an act that is unneeded and unwarranted at this particular time. It is foolish to expend all the good cards in their possession with complete disregard to timing. They need to continuously keep the plain objectives in their minds, which are the intrinsic reforms needed in this country while also remembering that they are not alone here. There are others who have just as legitimate demands and fears which must be addressed.
My humble advice to my fellow Bahrainis and our many sympathisers is to tirelessly work at not converting erstwhile friends to enemies. Don’t lose friends now, but cherish them. Their views might be completely divergent from your own, true, but this is the spice of life. Learn the art of dialogue and remember – please – that it’s not the loudest voice that is always right, but that which is backed by logic and reason. Even if an agreement cannot be reached, let us at least accept differing views, or at minimum respect their right to have them. If the opinion is intractable, learn to agree to disagree, but keep this question always at the forefront of your mind: What’s better for Bahrain and its future? What kind of Bahrain would I want my children and their children to inherit?
We will need to live with each other after all of this is over, regardless of the outcome. We need to rebuild a better and more encompassing Bahrain for all. For that, we will need friends much more than the a collection of enemies who were created because of an ill-judged comment or an impatient act.
I have a dream.
My dream is one where social justice pervades this land, where every single person lives with dignity, where there is respect for human rights and where peaceful coexistence is the norm.
Regardless of where fate might take us, I love you, my fellow Bahraini.