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A controversy-filled week in Bahrain

I think that the name Jihad Al-Khazin (arabic list) has become the most popular name within the Arab blogosphere this past week, as most blogs in the region have concentrated on his controversial article (arabic) attacking the very popular Religious Policeman cloaked in the guise of an attack on the credibility of anonymous blogging, making the assumption that only known authors have credibility. Needless to say that some of the responses to this article were for, while others against his assumptions. Some bloggers expressed their sadness at such a supposedly respected journalist employment of what they regard as questionable sources on which Mr. Al-Khazin based the cornerstone of his article, robbing it from whatever authenticity it might have had.

Both Haitham and Mahmood in Bahrain have tackled this subject and have received more than average comments which shows the level of divisiveness this subject garners, and the jury is still out as to what constitutes authenticity in blogs in general.

Another controversy (yes, Bahrain has certainly had its fair share last week!) is the appearance of one of the leaders of women's movement, Ms. Ghada Jamsheer, on an international television interview in which she lambasted the archaic interpretation of various forms of marriages in Islam and didn't even stop short of labeling those methods as wrong! A classification which instantly put the lady on irreligious grounds by extremists, to which she is not unfamiliar as she was called a heretic before by mosque preachers and others. She stood by what she said however which elated Mahmood on the one hand, and got Mohammed Al-Maskati whose excellent blog, emoodZ, to question what Ms. Jamsheer said in that interview, sending him to research whether the subjects raised were truthful. He was – as most people were – surprised and disgusted by his findings.

A third controversy is the tit-for-tat accusations by the chairman of the Accident & Emergency department at Salmaniya Medical Complex, the main hospital in Bahrain, against some of his staff, and vice versa, on mismanagement and glaring malpractice cases in that department going as far as accusing some doctors of smuggling prostitutes into wards during night shifts. Silly Bahraini Girl takes up the story with a humorous twist. On a more serious note however, the chairman of the A&E department and some of the doctors in question have been suspended from duty (arabic) yesterday pending a Ministry of Health investigation into this fiasco.

Wait, wait, there is a final controversy! 15 parliamentarians signed a memo demanding an official apology from the embattled Minister of Information who publicly stated during questioning at the Shura Council – the appointed upper house of parliament – that some of those members of the House of Representatives (elected members) who supported him in shutting down alcohol-serving bars during the holy month of Ramadhan do actually drink! Purportedly using this fact to solidify his position on the correctness of closing those businesses during Ramadhan. It doesn't look like that apology will be forthcoming any time soon as some of those signatories have withdrawn their signatures citing political gerrymandering, threats and promises by the minister of information, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that politics is politics, regardless of where it is practiced.

The ongoing saga of the Christmas-day riots at the Bahrain International Airport continues with families and supporters of those apprehended in those riots themselves going on demonstrations demanding their unconditional release as reported and witnessed by Chan'ad Bahraini. Needless to say, there were confrontations by these demonstrators and the police, some of whom have apparently used excessive force to cow demonstrators, as reported by the dissolved Bahrain Centre for Human Rights.

On more mundane news covered by Bahraini bloggers (phew!) Silveroo brings us a news snippet which dealt with a novel identity theft, in which a female University of Bahrain student covered herself up completely from head-to-toe wearing an abaya and a niqab (a “ninja” as she calls them!) and submitting a final notice of withdrawal from the university to the Registrar in another female student's name! Needless to say that when that was discovered, and the perpetrator identified, the guilty woman was expelled forthwith.

Silveroo brings up other issues connected with the misuse of the niqab and blames the Cabinet for passing that particular “retarded” law which allows fully covered women to drive, a decision which gave rise to more misuse; she says that some males have used that dress to mount a crime wave and enter women-only venues all due to the impossibility of knowing who actually is hiding behind that cover.

Two new blogs, exclusively in Arabic, have joined the burgeoning ranks of the Bahraini blogosphere: Ali7, a university student, whose first action is to send a letter to the most popular Arabic newspaper in Bahrain, Al-Wasat, attacking the Ministry of Information for basically, well, their incompetence in technological knowledge, less than effective coordination with the main ISP on the island and their priorities. The ministry has decided to block 15 pornographic sites which they claim to emanate from Bahrain, however Ali derides the ministry for not doing enough, as closing just those 15 sites is minuscule compared to the millions of other easily accessable pornographic sites from Bahrain, and alludes that all that the ministry is doing is in reality blocking political dissension sites disguising their operation which they describe as “guarding the Bahraini culture and norms.”

The other new blog, again in Arabic, is by Tawfeeq Al-Rayyash who is a political activist and running for election to the Steering Committee's Board of Directors of the largest political society in Bahrain, Al-Wefaq National Islamic Society. Tawfeeq also runs Montadayat Al-Bahrain (Bahrain Fora), one of the most popular news and fora sites on the island. His blog primarily concentrates on local and international political issues of the day.

The Joker provides us with relief from politics however, in listing what he believes are very underrated music bands mostly from the 80s. While Strav comments on the recent moves by Google to take Microsoft head-on in what promises to be a good fist-fight!

As the Muslim world will be celebrating Eid Al-Ad'ha tomorrow, which marks the culmination of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, we wish you all a very happy and auspicious Eid from all of us in Bahrain.

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