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Bahrain: Losing its identity?

Categories: Middle East & North Africa, Bahrain, Iran, Arts & Culture, Digital Activism, Economics & Business, Education, Labor, Photography, Politics, Religion, Women & Gender

This week in Bahrain we have opinions on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit, a blogger's dilemma about whether to have a female friend, another getting stuck between his wife-to-be and her family, a call for more Islamic bloggers, and a fear that Bahrain won't stay Bahraini for much longer…

Manama by night
We start this week with a photo from a new flickr [1] group called Top 20 Bahrain [2]:

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Fun and games
Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visited Bahrain briefly earlier this week, and bloggers have differing opinions on the visit and the man himself. Ammar [3] thinks President Ahmadinejad is a fun-loving person:

Our very own favourite party-starter, Ahmadinejad, visited Bahrain yesterday. If you noticed helicopters around, road blocks, or riot police stationed around various areas of Manama yesterday, now you know why.

Anyhow, the Iranian president met with our own King Hamad, and discussed strengthening economic ties between our countries, the current crisis in the Gulf, and kicking out the US from the region.

Now it's this last point I want to focus on; i've always considered Ahmadi as the fun-loving type; he's been known for taunting the US, pushing them to the brink of war, and then backing up and saying all he wants is peace with that huge smile he's well famous for. He's done this numerous times, and it's something a little like watching a comedy show.

Mahmood [4] thinks the president was like Santa Claus:

There must have been quite a run on dental surgeries over the last couple of days which continues today and possibly for a few days to come. The reason is not a sudden national oral hygiene awareness, but a condition borne of gnashed teeth to the point of shattering!
Why I hear you ask? Well, Ahmedinejad was Bahrain’s Santa yesterday. Yes, I know, his timing has always been off a bit, it’s still a few weeks until the presents are opened, but he came bearing very welcome gifts nonetheless, ones that the whole nation – especially the government and business community – has afforded them a huge sigh of relief. Bahrain, no thanks to our familial-tied Qatar, will now have guaranteed access to up to 2 billion cubic feet of gas a day to run its power stations which subsequently will directly shore the burgeoning plethora of energy-hungry projects; hence, one could say that Iran – much to the chagrin of even some parliamentarians and rabid anti-Iran personages – will have a direct hand in Bahrain’s future growth.

Maroon Al Ras has further analysis of the visit here [5] (in Arabic).

Crossing boundaries
It's not just Bahrain; omranx [6] is also making new friends:

i just joined uob [University of Bahrain] and it was kinda cool,
i wasnt use to study with girls in my class lol, at first it was kinda hard but later i got use to ( little )
will anyway after about 2months i guess, i made a friend female friend lol.
at first of the relationship it was hard lol talking to a girl, i never did that before, the relationship was based on friends no more, after 3weeks i guess, we started talking, somtimes calling, u know sh5bar [how are you] bla bla.
there was a guy i know, he was telling me what ur doing is wrong, at first i belived him but later on i thought why its wrong. am not doing anything wrong, first i think i never hard a relationship like this before, i have to get use to cuz later on i will need to make relationships like this so i can live easily lol.

tell me what u think about this.
is it right or wrong?

Which way to turn?
Tito84 [7] explains his absence from blogging – and reveals a dilemma:

Apart from being too busy with work, I have proposed on 2nd of Nov. to get engaged, and thanks to Allah my betrothal was accepted. I was really feeling shy that day and was looking down at my knees all the time. Even when I was offered food, I ate in an irritating slow pattern. The most important thing that everything is all right and I got to relate to the girl of my dreams.
Now here is the surprising part. From the moment I proposed to her, I thought everything ( I mean the party and ملجة preparations) would run as smooth as silk. I thought that you only have to decide where to make the women party and how much would you pay the bride as a marriage portion (مهر).
This wasn’t really the actual scenario. Regardless of the financial expense, I’ve found that many minor details should be taken care of. First you have to go shopping with the bride and her family for dresses, accessories, make-up stuff. Then you have to decide how to decorate the stage where the bride and groom will sit. Also, there are these little boxes where you provide the guest with chocolate. There is also the شبكة Shabka and wedding card decoration.
What makes all this stuff painful and exhausting is that my family are asking me to prepare for it in a certain way. For example, make the invitation cards with this certain decoration, do this , do that etc. While on the other hand, the soon-to-be my wife is asking me to do it in another way. This leaves me stuck in the middle between two radical extremes!

Bahrain's bloggers
Layal [8] is pondering the Bahraini blogosphere, after reading a piece by a local journalist about the apparent divisions amongst bloggers:

وقسمه لثالث اقسام
محمود اليوسف ومجموعته والتي اعتبرها انا شلة هوامير التدوين
يليها القسم الثاني من المدونات وهم الصحفيين
وتليها الفئه الكادحه المغلوبه وهي فئه الصعاليك
منذ ان دخلت التدوين وانا احاول تقسيم الوضع التدويني البحريني وقد قسمته لقسمين فئه علي بصيره من امرها وفئه تبحث عن هويه في التدوين
He divided (the blogs) into three parts:
Mahmood Al Yousif [9] and his group, whom I consider to be the big fish of blogging.
And following them the second group of blogs, the journalists.
And after them the hard-working and oppressed category, the ‘beggars’.
Since I started blogging I have tried to categorise the Bahraini blogosphere, and I have divided it into two parts: those who have insight, and those who are seeking some identity through blogging.

Rayyash [10] thinks there should be more Islamic bloggers in Bahrain:

عندما أنشأت مدونتي هذه قبل عدة سنوات كان عدد المدونين في البحرين يعد على الاصابع وكانت متابعة ما يكتب في غاية السهولة واليسر!! إلا أن ما يميز تلك الفترة هو أن الغالبية العظمى من المدونين يمثلون الخط الليبرالي!! … الوضع لم يتغير كثيراً اليوم!! فقد إزدادت أعداد المونات بصورة لافته وأصبحت أحد أهم مصادر المعلومة والمعرفة في العالم أجمع وأفل نجم المنتديات الحوارية ولكن الطامة الكبرى أن 97% من المدونون في البحرين هم من اللبراليين والعلمانيين وغير المنتمين للخط الديني أو الاسلامي!! وهذا الامر يشكل حالة مستقبلية خطيرة يجب الانتباه لها والعمل على وضع خطة عمل من خلال الجمعيات والتجمعات الشبابية للانخراط في إنشاء المدونات التي تعكس واقع المجتمع البحريني
When this blog was started some years ago, the number of blogs in Bahrain could be counted on your fingers, and it was very easy to follow what was being written! Expect the thing that distinguished this period was that the vast majority of bloggers represented the liberal line of thinking. … The situation has not changed much today. The number of blogs has greatly increased and they have become one of the most important sources of knowledge and information in the world, while the brightness of the discussion forums has dimmed, but the disaster is that 97% percent of bloggers in Bahrain are liberal and secular and do not belong to the religious or Islamic path. This issue will create problems in the future, and we have to take care and put in place a plan of action through the youth groups and associations for establishing blogs which will reflect the reality of Bahraini society.

Islam and other faiths
Hayat [11] wonders whether Islam is a religion of tolerance:

تعلمت منذ صغري بإن الإسلام دين للتسامح ، وذلك من خلال التلقين اليومي الذي اتلقاه منذ طفولتي في المدرسة او في البيت ، و لكن عندما كبرت اندفعت بشكل طبيعي نتيجة لحقيقة الواقع المتناقض لهذه الفكرة للبحث عن الحقيقة هل فعلا الإسلام دين للتسامح ؟
البعض سيجد مجرد التفكير أو البحث أو النقاش حول هذا الموضوع بإنه اعتداء على الإسلام و تشكيك بالإسلام و قد يصل بالبعض ان يكفرني او يزرع بداخلة الكراهية لي . قد يقول البعض بإن ردة الفعل هذة لا تعمم على جميع المسلمين و أنا اتفق معهم ،و لكن أرى بإن الغالبية هكذا فالتاريخ و الحاضر يشهد بإن للإسلام له مشوار حافل بالدماء بسبب عدم تقبل الآخر.
Since I was small I have been taught that Islam is a religion of tolerance, through daily instruction which I received in school or at home. But when I grew older I naturally rushed because of this contradictory reality of this idea to search for the truth as to whether Islam is really the faith of tolerance.

Some people will find that just thinking or researching or discussing this subject is an attack on Islam or scepticism about it, and some may decide I am an unbeliever or develop hate for me. Some might say that this reaction (of intolerance) is not a general one amongst all Muslims, and I agree with them. However I see the majority this way, and history and the present bear witness to the fact that Islam has a blood-soaked history because it did not accept others.

Manama by day
We finish with a photo that gives Mohammed AlMaskati [12] pause for thought:

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This picture was not taken somewhere in the streets of Mumbai or Hyderabad, nor is this a protest rally in support of Benazir Bhutto against the controversial emergency rule imposed by General Musharraf, sadly those are the streets of Manama, evident only by the Masha’allah sticker seen on the minivan at the bottom right corner.
What’s strange is that there is not a single Bahraini in sight, and what’s even stranger is that each and every single one of those cheap laborers has a job that doesn’t only suffices his expenses, but casually does extend to sending a proportionately large portion of their monthly income to their families back home.
Don’t get me wrong, I am in no way against those people or the nations flooding our markets with cheap labor and have nothing but absolute respect for those hard workers who chose to leave their country, family and friends behind in search for the green buck, let’s not go deep into the economics here and talk about their true effect on our labor market, how about we talk something we can understand and relate to.. The Culture -or what’s left of it at least…

More from Bahrain in a week.