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Hurraay! The Ministry of (dis)Information is to be disbanded!

This just in from the GDN quoting Akhbar Al-Khaleej that the Ministry of Information will be immediately disbanded and a part of history! At last someone listened, this corrupt, bankrupt, stifling government organ and brown-noser is no longer! I am SO happy for Bahrain that they should make today, August 26th a national holiday for ever!

Information Ministry to be axed

MANAMA: The Information Ministry is to be abolished and its responsibilities handed over to newly-created commissions for tourism, radio and television and culture and national heritage, it was revealed last night.

The first new body, the Tourism Commission, will come into being on September 1, informed sources told our sister paper Akhbar Al Khaleej.

Members of this organisation will be drawn mainly from the private sector and it will be chaired by a hotel company official. The existing tourism directorate will be abolished.

The second new commission will be formed in October or November to oversee culture and national heritage.

The sources said the Information Ministry would be dissolved at the beginning of next year. There was also a possibility that the Directorate of Printing would be affiliated to the new Culture and National Heritage Commission.

The sources added that it was likely the new Bahrain Radio and Television Commission would be set up at the beginning of next year as an independent commission. None of the commissions will be attached to a ministry.

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He’s in it for God, and to secure his place in Heaven.

Adel Al-Moawdah: “We entered the parliament to please our God before pleasing the people. We won’t sell our ever-after for this life.”

He also denies defaming “most” Barhaini business people with this comments reported earlier that they are the “morally corrupt lobby,” he claims his words were skewed and that the media is mounting a campaign against him personally. Hence he doesn’t see a reason to apologise for his remarks. He didn’t do nor say anything wrong.

Adel Al-Moawdah also firmly disbelieves that the closure of Big Brother Arabia will affect business and capital in Bahrain and encourages investment in “clean” projects – which he sanctions of course1.

He initiates the fire, then runs as far away as possible from it, letting others fan it with their hatred until it becomes all consuming. He of course didn’t do anything, just pour some kerosene and lit the match. As in Nancy Ajram’s case, he had nothing to do with the consequences, as he didn’t have anything to do with slandering the whole business community, MBC, the contestants and the 200 workers (now unemployed) at the show.

He has simply pulled himself out of it completely and blames the media for misrepresenting and misquoting him.

Perhaps his final declaration that he’s in parliament on a religious mission sums it up nicely. With this (documented) declaration, he emphasises that his mission and bloc is invariably to get Bahrain to be the next Tarliran. His duty as an MP to find solutions to people’s problems as in employment, health, services, education and eradicating corruption and nepotism is only second to turning this country into a Islamist state closer to his vision of the 7th century, than a modern, vibrant, tolerant country of the 21st.

I sometimes just wish and dream of owning a time-machine. If I had, I would use it exclusively to send these people back to the age they so long to be in. Then we’d see just how long they would last in their Utopia!

[1] Al-Wasat Newspaper Friday 5th March, 2004, page 5

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Big Brothers stop Big Brother Arabia

This from Reuters:

MANAMA (Reuters) – An Arab television channel said on Monday it was temporarily pulling the plug on its Arabic version of the hit reality show Big Brother after charges of indecency.

But an official of the MBC satellite channel said it would relaunch the show from outside Bahrain, where it was produced. Protesters in the conservative Gulf Arab state had said showing unmarried people living together offended Islam.

“There are many (locations) where it could be produced. We are looking at possible schedules,” the official said.

“This decision aims to avoid exposing MBC and its programs to accusations that it offends Arab values, customs and morals, because we consider MBC to be first and foremost a channel that belongs to the Arab world,” the popular Saudi-owned channel said in a statement.

Several hundred Islamists chanting “Stop Sin Brother! No to indecency!” protested in Bahrain on Friday against the show, which they deemed un-Islamic.

Some members of Bahrain’s parliament demanded to question Information Minister Nabeel al-Hamer about Big Brother.

“We are an Islamic country with our own traditions. This program spoils the morals of our sons,” MP Jasim al-Saeedi said.

Yousef Nooh, a doctor, said: “The show was not acceptable, but it’s strange to stop it, because it is an internationally accepted program.”

The Big Brother formula, in which participants are filmed 24 hours a day, has been copied around the world and draws large audiences.

The program, aired across the Arab world by MBC, had raised eyebrows despite efforts to take into account Muslim sensitivities. Separate living and sleeping quarters for male and female participants were introduced, as well as a prayer room.

“This type of show is no more a challenge or social problem than most films and television serials shown on all channels, in fact it is more faithful in showing reality than the movies and soaps,”the MBC statement said.

The Arab world’s first reality TV experiment, a dating show called Al Hawa Sawa (On Air Together), survived its three-month stint, ending earlier on Monday. It was aired from less conservative Lebanon.

So they get to have their way again. Now it is time for the silent majority to show that they are against these self-styled ‘big brothers’ of our society and wrench it back from them before all is lost.

Let’s recap:
1. Adel Al-Moawdah (salafi/wahabi) riles against Nancy Ajram in parliament, people heed his advice and riot, 10 people are awaiting prison sentences and of course he disassociates himself from the instigation of the riots completely.

2. Adel Al-Moawdah and his block (Al-Saidi, Mohammed Khalid, Ali Mattar (salafis/wahabis) and the rest of the Islamists in parliament) again protest against a television show, this time Big Brother Arabia, the three of them organise protests just after their Friday sermons, march to the Big Brother production location, get publicity, and a few hours ago they once again get their way. No rioters this time, however they were censured severely by their colleagues Abdulnabi Salman and Farid Ghazi (both MPs) where they indirectly cautioned them that they (Islamists) shouldn’t use extra-parliamentary means to get their way, especially if there are instruments within the parliamentary system to show their grievance and their objections.

Once again the honourable Adel Al-Moawdah waves the flag of Ministerial interrogation and questioning in parliament of the Information Minister in regards to Big Brother.

3. Al-Saidi (salafi/wahabi) proposes that ALL areas of public life, starting with schools should be segregated. “It only takes building a few more buildings in the university compound for the girls or erecting fences between the genders!” What’s the big deal? He just threw hundreds of years of psychology in the toilet and flushed it, after heavy use by the honourable gentleman.

4. Abdulla Al-A’ali (shi’a cleric) proposes as a solution to “prevent possible vice” banning Bahrainis from entering hotels in the country. He’s laughed at in parliament by his own colleagues.

5. Al-Saidi (salafi/wahabi) is “extremely worried” about “our girls” living abroad to attend university by themselves in foreign land where he “can’t keep an eye on them, and they are open to subversion in the western culture.” He proposes to not allow girls to study outside of Bahrain.

6. I can FULLY envisage the cancellation of Formula One in Bahrain AT THE LAST MINUTE due to these “Big Brothers” because it encompasses all of the above and “it will subvert our ‘youth’ into speeding”

God have mercy.

Do the moderates continue to sit in their armchairs while these despots take over our lives? Do we still allow them to control every aspect of it? And can we accept to live in an Orwellian version of Bahrain even worst than the “security law” era because these people are genuinely “afraid for us in front of God and by their actions want to keep us from sin and debauchery?”

If we don’t do something concrete to let these people, the parliament and the government to hear our voice, then all is really lost.

Is this the democracy that we envisage and want for Bahrain? Ruled by religion, especially a closed and blind interpretation as has been forced down our throats by these people?

George Orwell, we’re catching up with you, it only took 55 years, lightspeed in this area of the world!

Welcome to mini-Iran and Taliban’s Afghanistan rolled into one. A place which used to be called Bahrain.

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Societal limits

Commenting on my article Field visit to Big Brother Arabia bahrainia wrote:

Mahmood, I respect and appreciate your very logical reasoning, and im glad we’ve taken the debate to a higher level. Why should I be offended, u were ever sooooo polite which is nice for a change:)

You raised important points which I have learned from. Im not against a businessman making a profit from fair trade.

What im essentially trying to question is the agenda in the media. Now, every newspaper, every TV channel, every internet site has an agenda, be one that belongs to an individual or a government or a businessman. No im not saying, its a conspiratorial agenda, but some sort of goal or framework in which the information they broadcast or publish is communicated with this in mind. When I say ‘islamic’ media. I dont mean one that is just full of sermons and historic dramas looking at victories past, the ‘golden era’ or whatever. Im saying one, that at least doesnt defy the religion. If you look at a standard Western channel, taking for example again the BBC, everything is kind of acceptable up until the 9pm watershed (ok excluding a few kisses and hugs here and there in some soaps- but these scenes will hardly go amiss if filtered out).

I gotta disagree with you. I found the ramadan program line up on most of the Arabic channels ‘quite’ entertaining, and some programs even made the headlines for their storylines. In line with the spiritual nature of ramadan anyway. About the different religions. Im all for pluralism, why not have a program for the other religions?

Actually Ive just met a very interesting kuwaiti lady finishing her PhD in islamic entertainment and recreation. I’ll post something when I have a chat with her about where to draw the line in entertainment. And Yes a line needs to be drawn somewhere. Pornography is entertainment (and very profitable indeed), and even for the sadisticly minded, paedophilia is entertaining, does that make it acceptable on a mainstream arab channel?

As for the constitution and the parliament, to be honest, it is by definition a non-contractual one. I know i’ll probably get bombarded with hate comments for saying this. But what ppl voted for in the National charter is not the same as what eventually came in the 2002 constitution. The National Charter only got the 98% yes vote after the King made certain promises regarding the power of the two parliamentary chambers- promises which he completely threw out of the window. Hence, I feel, like many others, that everything is based on a deception and I give no credibility to the so-called ‘democracy’ that exists in Bahrain whatsoever. Moreover, other issues such as the geographical boundaries that were drawn, were all made on sectarian lines. In addition, to the 100,000 politically naturalised, on top of the sectarian discrimination that exists in the country. This isnt a conspiracy theory, it is a fact. Then what pisses me off, is when I read comments as the one posted here, that all the ones following in this line are extremists and terrorists. Well what drives terrorism and rioting is poverty. True Al mo3awda sparked off the whole Ajram debacle with his statements, but in the end it was a few teenagers who rioted outside the concert hall, with no orders from anyone. Bahrainis are peaceful people, and islam is a religion of peace and harmony.

BhraNia

I felt compelled to split this topic from the original due to the various valid points raised. Here is my personal opinion on the matter:

It would indeed be interesting to find our what your Kuwaiti friend has to say about this subject, her opinion will be valuable as she arguably has researched the subject much more than I or the majority of people, that being her thesis. Good luck to her with that.

I have commented before that the limits of democracy and personal freedoms is a fine line which is defined essentially as “your freedom ends where someone else’s freedom begins”. The same is true of how to define the limits of freedoms of expression, be that in art, television, film, the written and spoken word or however a person in concurrence of current laws interprets his/her personal space for self expression.

Therefore the line in essence is hazy and not a single person can tell you where it lies, as everyone will bring their own personal prejudices and “historical baggage” to bear on defining where that line is or should be.

Let’s take some accepted art in international circles, does one regard the photography of Bill Brandt for instance of the female body as pornographic? There is no doubt that some people will take offense to his work as they will with a multitude of others’. Like Bill Brandt, they have every right to voice their opinions, but they surely shouldn’t have the right to tear down his photographs and destroy them.

Some people might regard pornography and pedophilia as another form of art and self expression which should be respected. This is a very difficult question and I cannot but apply my own prejudices to it: to me, I am personally against gratuitous pornography and will actively sensor its images when and if my own children are exposed to it through no fault of their own. It is also my responsibility as a parent to tell my children why I choose to censor that particular content. But this is me, a parent exercising our prerogative and imbuing our children with what we think is right and wrong simply to help them evaluate their own future choices in life.

I am however opposed to state/religious censorship in all its forms. I am strong advocate of freedoms of expression, and a strong believer that it is the responsibility of parents to educate their children of their interpretation of social norms.

Taking my views into consideration let me tell you this: We have several pornographic channels being broadcast on free-to-air and pay-per-view channels on satellite receivable in Bahrain, and obviously the rest of the Middle East. I do not have any free-to-air receiver myself, but have seen such channels at other locations. What I have is much more “destructive” and that is an always-on internet connection.

I have installed a network at home connected to a computer in every child’s room. I have a server through which everyone at home accesses the internet. There is no “filter” on the server to disable any particular site nor content. We (my wife and I) have however explained our expectations to our children and encouraged them to not go to such sites. We also told them that due to browser hijacking, viruses, worms etc they might be “pulled” to an innocent sounding site but its content we might find objectionable. If that happens they are encouraged to come and tell us about the experience and I will fix their computer by removing the virus or correct the browser hi-jacking. I have of course installed a virus checker on each and every computer. But I cannot blame them if they have been tricked into getting to a site they have no control over.

On installing the network at home, we made up a contract between us the parents and the child (we have 3) and each had to sign this contract and stick it up on their wall next to their screen. In it we detailed when they can use the internet (duration, after finishing all school homework, cleaning their rooms, etc.) and what to do if they find objectionable content, making especially sure that they understand that we will not punish them if they do inform us promptly. This worked very well. It’s been three or four years now. True to their word, they did inform us when they encountered problems with their browser, or they have clicked an innocent looking link in a spam email they have received etc. We know that we can trust them now because of this experiment.

The constitution

I agree that the 2002 Constitution was a surprise, and I applaud the various political activists and some members of parliament’s efforts at redressing the balance lost by the birth of this document. There is outright rejection and on the other hand full acceptance. Such is the polarisation of our society in this issue.

My personal view is this: the ballot was cast and parliamentarians elected based on the 2002 constitution. For although the Charter for National Action is a legal document, it is not the constitution, it was a referendum on “fundamental law and visions” and as it has been approved by 98.4% of the populace. If 55% (I forget the actual figure of people voted) then cast their ballots and choose their representatives regardless of any other issue at hand, then the majority of the country have chosen this new constitution as a binding document between the government and its citizens.

Yes the demarcation of electoral districts was obviously wrong and imbalanced. Yes perceivably wrongly and politically motivated naturalised citizens did vote. But as the vote was cast, the outcome must be respected.

If fault is to be borne by anyone then surely it must be the opposition! It was their responsibility to ensure that the people knew their point of view and explain why they are boycotting the elections. It was their responsibility in which they abjectly failed in transmitting the message to the populace that what they are voting for is an aborted democracy with a changed, non-binding and one-sided contract. But because of their divided nature and their inability to coordinate their efforts, they have lost the battle.

Now we have an elected parliament, we have an accepted constitution by the majority of the public, and we have a framework to change that constitution. We have to use the methods allowed under the constitution to change it. We have to depend on our chosen representatives to change it and ensure that it gets event better than the constitution of 1973. And the “outsiders”, ie the societies who boycotted the elections must review their position in society and create a clear vision and collective strategy to induce this change, not by violence and rhetoric, but by clear steps to be adopted such as working hand-in-hand with the chosen representatives of the people.

So why did 55% of the population vote? In my view it is because they saw these societies as serving a certain sect, religion, or ethnic belonging, rather than the whole of Bahrain.

Why should someone from Riffa care or give a whit what Al-Wifaq does or says? Al-Wifaq markets itself ONLY for shi’as! What political party in the world is allowed to even exist if its (hidden) declaration is to a certain ethnic and religious sect or sub-sect? Does that mean that a Sunni from Muharraq will not be able to join the ranks of Al-Wifaq? How about a Shi’a from Duraz attempting to join Al-Asala?

These “societies” should not be allowed to exist legally. What they do is divide the society and propagate the segregationist policies of failed ideology (no, I’m not talking about Islam here).

A political party should not be allowed to restrict its membership to a religion, sect or thought. They should be allowed only to convene with the ultimate and only view to strengthen national unity and work towards a goal of the betterment of the country as a whole, not a sub-sect of society. The political party must be open to all sects, religions, and ethnic background to gain legitimacy with its own people.

Hence, political parties by definition MUST be irreligious, but have an active and well thought of agenda to raise the standard of living of the whole country, not just a collection of cities, towns or villages. It should concern itself with guarding and guaranteeing freedoms of expression, creativity and invention. It must actively seek out laws which prevent incoming investment opportunities and negate them. It must protect the dignity of the human being. Not be exclusive to a certain group.

This is the failing of all political societies in Bahrain. I just hope – as I am sure you do to – that they will realise this failing and put in mechanism to correct the situation. Before all is lost.

What happens in the absence of all of this infrastructure and ideology is riots, terrorism and corruption. Adel Al-Moawdah is absolutely responsible for the riots and the untold damage done to local business opportunities.

His declaration that he will forever “fight vice and promote virtue every time an event like this happens” referring to whenever a singer is invited to the island to perform, should have automatically disqualified him from parliament as these comments absolutely were the ignition point of the riots.

It is ironic that he instigated this event, but the executors where his diametric opposites: it was Shi’as who demonstrated and destroyed, while he is an abject Wahabi Salafi who traditionally are completely opposed to Shi’as and their ideas.

So parliamentarians’ comments carry much farther than their immediate circle, other people with their own agendas will use them to their own effects. This of course demonstrates the naivety of not only Adel Al-Moawdah and his ilk, but the whole parliamentary exercise in Bahrain.

But then, haven’t we had 30 years’ experience in parliamentary life? No, what we had is 2 years of parliamentary life 30 years ago, long forgotten and its proponents largely dead. The only survivor of that era is Al-Dhahrani, the chairman of the Council of Representatives. And he amply demonstrated his unsuitability when he urged and begged the parliament to “let him fix the problem of GOSI and the Pension fund directly with the government!” This is the chairman of the parliament urging this infant democracy to go the route of nepotism and personal relationships rather than work within the framework of the constitution!

So if a representative of the “golden era” of Bahraini parliamentary life is so at odds with the concept of democracy and institutions, the very one who was elected to this exalted position by his colleagues largely due to his “experience” and “sagacity” due to his involvement with the 1975 dissolved parliament, why should we even care for a dated document like the 1973 constitution?

The method is certainly wrong, but the concept is correct. I’ve read somewhere that a medieval king would give his right arm to have the wide ranging powers that our King has given himself! And that is true when you look closely at the 2002 constitution. The fact remains however that the constitution is not a Heavenly inviolate text, hence it is our collective responsibility to work within the current framework to achieve a proper end-result, and that is to change the constitution to be a current, encompassing, and empowering essence to the Bahraini citizen.

Having Islamists in parliament gravely concerned with the morals of society, a television show, and a concert will not lead us unto a path of human dignity and creativity, just to abject poverty and ruin.

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Field visit to Big Brother Arabia

So the Big Brother production team are in a quandary, give in to the pressure they are facing from our friends the Islamists, shut down and move, of just ignore the criticism and carry on?

They apparently chose to calm these Islamists down by trying to set up a committee of religious figures to oversee the production. Here are the people who have been invited to the Big Brother House yesterday:

Religious figures visit the Big Brother House in Amwaj Islands, Bahrain to see the production facilities first hand

Smart. They’ve included both Shia and Sunni judges so that they can calm the whole island down.

The result? A demand from these religious guys for assurances that (1) the Islamic religion is going to be respected at all times, (2) women MUST wear the hijab (cover up), (3) all episodes must be screened by them before broadcasting.

The second guy from the left (Muhsin Al-Asfoor) apparently recognised the commercial value of the program as it employs some 200 Bahrainis in the production and postproduction. He probably realises too that the production team have also rented countless flats and houses, hired transport, buy food and goods, etc which culminates in a total budget between US$15m to 20m for the production period. Apparently MBC signed an agreement with the Ministry of Information for the rights to run for 7 years and that budget will be duplicated on the island every single year.

Remember that it is best to teach someone to fish then giving them food? Whether we like this program or not, MBC is doing just that and paying the Bahrainis excellent salaries they would never dream of getting from Bahrain TV or most other production houses.

Now for the rogues’ galleries, starting with those opposed (Adel Al-Moawdah and Mohammed Khalid):

Bahraini MP Adel Al-MoawdahBahraini MP Mohammed Khaled

For: or at least don’t want to waste their time on such trivial matters like a television show (Fareed Ghazi and Abdulnabi Salman):

Bahraini MP Fareed GhaziBahraini MP Abdulnabi Salman

The guy in the Islamists vice-grip (Nabeel Al-Hamar, Minister of Information):

Bahriani Information Minister Nabeel Al-Hamar

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…and I thought democracy means constructive criticism?

The Bahraini press is threatening national unity and abusing the democratic system, the Minister of Information was quoted as saying yesterday.

Nabeel Al Hamer was quoted during a meeting with newspaper editors as saying the government will not tolerate those in the press who are trying to “sabotage” the democratic reforms.

“We will not, under any pretext, tolerate those abusing the democracy now available in the kingdom in order to sabotage the democratic achievements,” he told them.

Gulf News | By Mohammed Almezel | 10-06-2003

and this comes from a journalist! The minister was the managing editor of Al-Ayam newspaper for a very long time. It’s heartening to find his views have changed somewhat since he became the minister of information.

So what the hell is happening here then? This “outburst” was due to a couple of articles in the papers that I think constructively criticised the government. And isn’t constructive criticism the basis of democratic life? So what should we do now? Just turn a blind eye to everything that might be deemed “offensive” or against the government?

gimme a break.. MAKE UP YOUR MIND, either be democratic or let’s just go back to where we were before ’99. At least then everyone knew what the rules were and where the red-line was. Democracy as far as I understand it doesn’t have any red-lines. If the law on the other hand did set a red-line that no one is allowed to cross, let the (competent) courts handle that through laws, but don’t just keep shifting the line here and there at a whim.

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