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Bahrain: Does A PlayStation 2 Gun Count As A Weapon?

Bahrain's bloggers have moved on this week to comment on a protest held outside the Iranian Embassy in protest against an editorial by Iranian editor Hossein Shariatmadari, who stated that Bahrain should become a part of Iran. Others talk about Embassy interviews for Visas, the release of a Guantanamo detainee, why Bahrain is vying to build the highest skyscraper and preparing for the new release of Harry Potter.

Bahrain and Iran
Last week we reported on the brouhaha surrounding comments by Hossein Shariatmadari, Iranian newspaper editor and government advisor, stating that Bahrain should be returned to Iran. This led to a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in Manama, and Mohammed AlMaskati gives his opinion of what occurred:

Now, away from the nonsense of Shariatmadari; there is absolutely no excuse for the shouts recited on that protest, referring to Iran as “Majusia” (a term originally meaning Zoroastrians) and used back in the 1980s, majus was part of Iraqi propaganda vocabulary of the Iran-Iraq War to refer to Iranians in general. … Thus, in their eyes, this protest against Iran took on the dimensions of not only a struggle for Arab nationalism and Bahraini Patriotism, but also a campaign in the name of Islam.

What they forgot (and by they, I am referring to Members of the Parliament, religious figures and activists that were present in the protest and recited such racist chants) that the accusation, or point of view was that of Hossein Shariatmadari and only Hossein Shariatmadari, what they forgot is that he does not represent the Iranian Regime, or even anyone for that matter except for himself.

This very same story happened when the Danish Newspaper published cartoons of depicting the prophet and the entire Muslim world went on a rampage accusing the Danish government of blasphemy.

Mohammed is equally unimpressed with a placard showing Iranian leaders greeting anti-Zionist Jewish leaders, used to imply that Iran is collaborating with Israel in a Zionist plot. Mahmood is also angry at the sentiments expressed at the demonstration, especially at the (self-contradictory) slogan ‘Nazi Zionist Republic of Iran’, and believes the demonstrators were jumping on a sectarian bandwagon:

Let me state that the morons who printed that slogan above do not represent me and are not speaking in my name, nor for that matter the vast majority of Bahrainis from whichever religious persuasion. They are sullying their own name by once again exposing their racial and sectarian intentions.

Butterfly feels there was a lost opportunity:

بالنسبة …الاعتصام الذي قام به أهالي البحرين امام السفارة الايرانية فكان يمكن له ان يكون مثالا حيا للاعتصامات التي نتطلع لها بمشاركة الطوائف والمسارات المذهبية والسياسية المختلفة والتي توحد صف الشعب وتجعله يد واحدة امام اي قوة او تهديد خارجي يريد النيل من وطنيتنا ووحدتنا لولا ما شاب هذه التظاهرة من شعارات عاطفية تنادي بإغلاق السفارة الايرانية و بأسم ايران كدولة صفوية وعدوانية وما الى ذلك من هتافات لن تحقق شيئا سوى تصعيد حدة الخلاف بين دولتين مسلمتين
Regarding…the protest undertaken by the people of Bahrain in front of the Iranian Embassy, this could have been a vivid example of the protests we strive for, with the participation of the different sects, denominations and political groupings, which could unite the people and make them one voice, standing against any outside threat or force wishing to influence our nation or unity. That is, if the demonstration hadn't been spoilt by emotional slogans calling for the closure of the Iranian Embassy and calling Iran an enemy, Safawi (Shi'i) state, and other calls that will do nothing but increase the differences between two Muslim countries.

Fareed Esa is looking at the silver lining:

لنطوي إذن هذه الصفحة التي أكد خلالها شعبنا تلاحمه ووقوفه بقوة إلى جانب قيادته حيث لا مساومة على الوطن ، ولنعمل معا على تطوير أنفسنا ومجتمعنا وحل مشاكلنا وقضايانا الداخلية ، وكما يقال فإن الضربة التي لا تتمكن منك تقويك ،ودونما شك فإن الضربة التي جاءتنا من شريعتمداري كانت سببا في تقويتنا وكانت سببا أيضا في التأكد من مدى إخلاصنا جميعا بكل أطيافنا لهذا الوطن العزيز ، فقد حشرنا أنفسنا في عربة واحدة تعبيرا عن حبنا لوطننا .
Let's turn the page on this affair, throughout which our people confirmed their unity and ability to stand alongside the leadership when there is no negotiation about the nation. Let's develop ourselves and our society together, and solve our domestic problems and issues. As they say, the blow which doesn't knock you down strengthens you, and without a doubt, the blow which came from Shariatmadari has caused us to be stronger, and has also confirmed the extent of our loyalty, in all sectors of this great nation, and has squeezed us into one boat, expressing our love for our country.

Anti-secular sentiments

LuLu looks behind the recent calls by the senior Shi'i religious scholar in Bahrain, Shaikh Isa Qassim, to mobilise against secularism, and sees different forces at play:

So this has been the new “big thing” in Bahrain for the past couple of weeks. Shaikh Isa Qassim, head of the “Olama” Islamic Council (highest Shia religious body in Bahrain), had given a Friday sermon at Al-Sadiq mosque in Duraz 2 weeks ago in which he demonized “seculars” and “secularism” as enemies of Islam and of the people of Bahrain. “Down with the seculars!”, the crowds shouted..

As usual, a religious message had a political background. The Shaikh's message comes following the controversy over the 1% unemployment insurance tax scheme, which the Olama council had decreed un-Islamic, as it compels employees to pay contribution against their will. The so-called seculars, and this term is used loosely, as all of them had indicated their commitment to Islam as the official state religion, disagreed. Some figures in Wa'ad and parliament had called on the Olama Council to refrain from rushing to use religious fatwas to silence the debate on this issue. Apparently, this call had struck a nerve. In that sermon and those that followed, Shaikh Qassim continued to accuse the “seculars” of waging a war on Islam and called upon his followers to fight the “demon.”

For more details of LuLu's analysis, see here.

Visa problems
A number of bloggers have recounted their experiences with foreign embassies this week. I'll Have One of Those is shocked at the treatment that Bahrainis have apparently received from the French Embassy in Manama recently when applying for visas:

The French embassy in Bahrain is an inept disaster area. First of all, let me just be frank. These people do not want us anywhere near their countries; or at least that is what we are to understand from their barbaric and rather uncivilized visa application process. From their behavior, it can be concluded that they aim to make attaining a visa as difficult as it possibly can be in order to limit the number of rag head sand monkeys entering their wonderful and flawless countries.

[…]

First of all, people beginning to queue for visas at 3 and 4 am is not just illogical, it is cruel and unfair and shows utter disregard for this nation and its people. I’m very sure the French embassy in any other (non-Arab/Muslim) country would not have the gall to treat its citizens like they have chosen to treat us.

And Rayyash has written about his dealings with the American Embassy; having been invited to attend a conference in the United States, he applied for a visa – for his first ever visit to the ‘Great Satan’. His initial application was via the internet, then he had to attend an interview in the Embassy, and he gives us an idea of the questions he was asked, and his responses:

س: هل سجنت من قبل
ج: نعم إبان نظام أمن الدولة
س: وماذا كانت تهمتك
ج: لا أعلم حتى هذه اللحظة لماذا أنا كنت مسجون
س: ألم يحكم عليك
ج: بلى بالبراءة
س: هل إنضممت الى منظمات تحت الارض
ج: جميع المنظمات التي إنضممت لها فوق الأرض
س: هل تعلم كيف تحمل السلاح
ج: هل تعرف مسدس البلاي ستيشن2
س: نعم لماذا
ج: ولدي يملك واحد !! ولكني لا أعرف كيف يتم إستخدامه
س: لماذا تجاوب بهذه الطريقة الاستهزائية ( نبرة غضب ) هذه أسئلة روتينية
ج: لقد اجبت على جميع هذه الاسئلة في ورقة التأشيرة عبر الانترنت وعبر ملأ الفورة فلماذا الاعادة
س: سوف ننظر في طلبك وراجعنا بعد 5 أيام لنرى إذا تمت الموافقة على طلبك

ملاحظة: مساعدتي لم تسأل نفس الاسئلة وقالوا لها تعالي إستلمي تأشيرتك بعد 4 أيام حيث سوف تكون جاهزة

Q: Have you been imprisoned before?
A: Yes, at the time of the State Security Law.
Q: And what was the charge?
A: Until this moment I still don't know why I was imprisoned.
Q: Didn't they pass a verdict?
A: Yes, innocent.
Q: Have you ever been a member of underground organisations?
A: All the organisations I have joined are ‘above ground’.
Q: Do you know how to use weapons?
A: Do you know the PlayStation 2 gun?
Q: Yes, why?
A: My son has one – but I don't know how to use it!
Q: Why are you answering these routine questions in such a derisive manner? (said in an angry tone)
A: I answered all these questions in the online visa application and by filling in the form, so why go over it again?
Q: We will look at your request; come back to us in five days’ time and we'll see if your request has been approved.

Note: My assistant was not asked the same questions, and they told her to come and take her visa after four days when it would be ready.

Guantanamo detainee
Mohammed AlMaskati does not share the general relief expressed at the release from Guantanamo Bay of a Bahraini/Saudi citizen, Juma Al Dossary, who had been detained for five years without charge:

I simply can not understand why is this guy being treated like a national hero? Now I understand the horrors and the mental and physical pressure the inmates of Gitmo endured, I’ve read over and over stories and tales of continuous unbearable torture and the unimaginable interrogation techniques they were put under, which is all fine (I weep for them, from a human to human standpoint…maybe), but that is it.

Why have we forgotten that our local prisons around the region have stories like this till today? Have we forgotten the interrogation techniques that were used in Bahraini prisons during the 90s era? The scandals of rape and sexual harassment in Egyptian prisons that found its way to YouTube? Have we forgotten what happened in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison before the American invasion? The torture clips of Saddam Hussain? Why is this all of a sudden breaking news to us? Why is this guy being treated like some national hero that we should be proud of and pay tribute to the local human right watchdogs and mps that worked for his release?

[…]

Letting this guy loose without trial is absolutely unjustified, he is a suspected terrorist and a member of a banned organization until proven otherwise.

Tallest tower
A number of bloggers wondered at the race to build the world's tallest tower that Bahrain appears to have joined. Ammar is not impressed:

Seems the new fad has turned to which country has the tallest tower. Dubai started it in the region by building the Burj Dubai, which some estimate will reach somewhere between 800 and 900m. Also in Dubai, another tower is being planned; called The-Burj, which should hit something a little past a kilometer. Kuwait is also planning its own tower, at 1,001m, Mubarak Al-Kabeer, and Bahrain will also have one, not yet named but blueprints state it will reach 1,022m.

[…]

Guys, calm the hell down. This is NOT a game; but obviously some people seem to think it is. It's always been in the Gulf countries’ blood; they love to show off how much money they have, how developed they are, etc. But don't do it this way. It's so obvious something is going to go terribly wrong here.

Mahmood asks:

We don’t even have the infrastructure to handle the cars on the roads – and by “we” I include all the Arab countries – and we are lacking in just about every other necessary infrastructural and health and safety not to mention human rights and political representation – oh for God’s sake, let’s forget all of those intangibles for a minute, do we just have the fire-fighting and emergency capabilities to deal with such heights? … Somehow I think the priorities are bit screwed up in our countries.

Yagoub has some suggestions for what to do with the building:

What are we going to do with it? Will it be a white elephant like the Millennium Dome in London? …I sat down in my boredom and thought up this list in my head:

1.An excellent solution to the parking crisis in Manama! Over 100 floors of shaded parking is a Bahraini driver’s dream
2. Another great solution for people waiting for houses from the Ministry of Housing and Works
3. Turning the top floor into a space research centre and making it the closest point any Bahraini will get to the moon.

For the rest of the list see here.

Pros and cons
Two other bloggers have been making lists this week. Mohammed AlMaskati gives us a list of eighty-five reasons to complain about life in Bahrain. And aMaL writes her own list of containing eighty-five positive aspects of Bahrain in response.

TechZ tells us about one of the pleasures of summer in Bahrain:

Bahrain’s traffic has reduced so much, yay! Work trip is easier now…parking isn’t that insane as it used to be…on the whole a lot better.

Harry Potter preparations
We finish this week with The Girl With No Face who is making some very serious preparations for the release of the final Harry Potter book, and lists them step-by-step:

Thursday 19th July 2007:
-Must tell work that I won’t be coming in on Sunday. (unless I finish the book) *excited*

Friday 20th July 2007 morning:
-Must sleep in to ensure that I’ll be wide awake all night when I get the book.

Friday 20th July 2007 afternoon:
-Buy munchies to last me at least three days because I won’t be leaving my bedroom.
-Buy some water to keep me hydrated. (preferably O2 or Evian)
-Buy Davidoff Ultra Lights (Its essential to find the perfect location to enable me to smoke cigarettes when stressed out from the book)
-Buy the ingredients to keep the tradition of making my famous pasta. We have the pasta right before we leave the house to buy the book. (I shall call it my Potter Pasta)

Read the whole schedule here.

More from Bahrain next week!

1 comment

  • Pingback: Robs Place

    […] Global Voices has a nice report from some of Bahrain’s bloggers: Rayyash has written about his dealings with the American Embassy; having been invited to attend a conference in the United States, he applied for a visa – for his first ever visit to the ‘Great Satan’. His initial application was via the internet, then he had to attend an interview in the Embassy, and he gives us an idea of the questions he was asked, and his responses: […]

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