October 22nd, 2003 is an historic date for Bahrain and in a lot of Bahrainis’ minds they will remember events henceforth as pre-Nancy and post-Nancy. MPs, particularly the Islamists, should also take note of this phenomenon as it most certainly has determined their future within the democratic establishment and society.
So far we have not heard an apology from these MPs who instigated the riots, on the contrary, they – particularly Adel Al-Moawada, got further entrenched in his views with threats of a repeat performance any time a singer gets invited to Bahrain to perform for whatever function (Al-Wasat Newspaper, October 25th, 2003, page 6) he goes on to further distance himself from the riots defending his actions as a child would have after striking the match that burnt the house down. In his mind it is still a clear cut issue: “prevention of vice and promotion of virtue” and it is his God given right to “defend the faith”. Not stopping for a second to contemplate that democracy is an encompassing process that takes into consideration other people’s views, and his job is to uphold and defend our infant democracy.
This demagogue is joined by many of his ilk evidenced by the various Friday sermons, but they, to the modern thinker in any case, represent all that is dangerous to these islands of ours. Zero tolerance for the others views.
What’s next? Shut down all forms of entertainment and sports? Roll back the clock and live by paraffin lamps, dates and in camel-hair tents ruled by an elite class of religious junta? Create a cadre of religious police with sticks to go around enforcing their views of prevention of vice and promotion of virtue? Maybe we should also have another national referendum to change our country’s name to Bahrainistan?
I take pride in Bahrain’s centuries-old heritage as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural cosmos built on the respect of other people’s views and religious beliefs. I also take pride in Islam as a modern religion where no person is forced into Islam by force, nor get Islam’s views imposed. I take pride in the great strides we have taken towards the road of democracy. I take pride in my ability as a citizen to have a say in the way the government is run. I take pride in my ability to elect my parliamentary representative. I take pride in the various people who have voiced their opinions about this subject in the local papers and internet fora regardless of whether their views coincide with mine. But I mostly take pride in being able to write this article without fear of persecution.
If we as a nation don’t take a firm stand against these extremist views and show these elected representatives that they are indeed being watched, then there is no hope in the future. We also have to take a firm stand against the saboteurs who terrorised innocent people and destroyed the peace and property and not allow the government to treat them with a soft hand, nor accept that they be released by pardon. They should serve their term in the hope that they will realise their error and think twice about responding to such incitement in the future.
In the post-Nancy era, we have to seriously consider the separation of religion and politics as the events and responses of the past few days clearly demonstrated the kind of polarised society we live in. For some people personal freedom and choice is paramount, while to others it is restricted and governed by their own ideology. The only way to guarantee tolerance and personal freedoms is patently obvious. It is this that the parliament should concern themselves with rather than frivolous matters like permitting veiled women to drive or allowing Nancy to perform.