Bahrain is once again making the headlines for hosting the biggest event in racing history - and it is the number one race on the Grand Prix calendar.
While thousands of people are working behind the scenes to make the event a success, a smaller number of locals are openly rallying support for a demonstration to coincide with the race - to call for banning the newly drafted Family Law, which seems to be getting closer to reality by the day.
What is it they are calling for exactly? A race against time and a trip back to the dark ages?
Have we gone totally mad in Bahrain or it is just me getting negative vibes from everything happening back home?
What are the turbaned clerics against exactly? A written codified personal law which guarantees the rights, responsibilities and duties of every member of the family?
Or the fact that the carpet will be swept from under their feet and they will lose the unchallenged control they have over people's life and destinies?
The fact that we are in the year 2006 and there isn't a written law to safeguard family rights is a joke, especially when legislators are busy calling for covering up mannequins and segregating institutes of higher education.
They could have better used their time and our public funds on discussing more worthwhile issues.
Why is a family law such a threat to the clergy and men in general? What are the side effects they are so worried about? How will it upset the family unit in Bahrain?
What will outlining what the duties and rights of the husband, wife and children in line with Islamic Sharia upset the clergymen so much?
And what baffles me is why have so many women gone out on the streets to demonstrate against a law which will finally give them recognition as wives and mothers - and some standing in a court of law, which will have a written code of conduct and not depend entirely on the whims of one man?
Sigh! The future looks bleak indeed if we have reached crossroads where our people are actually rallying behind oppressing women and not giving mothers and children their legal rights, as ordained by the Holy Quran and Islamic Sharia.
*Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
It is great to see common sense prevailing at last and the Doulos being allowed to sell books!
But I still cannot bring myself to understand the rationale behind the decision to allow the world's largest floating bookshop to dock at Mina Salman, but ban it from selling its books!
It was like chopping someone's hand off and giving him a pen!
What have we got against the written word? Wasn't it the Holy Quran that ordered the believers to read? Wasn't it Prophet Mohammed who instructed his people to seek knowledge?
Why was the Doulos allowed to call on us, if we were to snub it and show the rest of the world our fangs and our "great sensitivity" towards books as if they were the plague?
Why were people who read in Bahrain herded like horses to water, but denied to drink from it? It's not like we are spoilt for choice when it comes to books in Bahrain so that the floating bookshop posed a threat to local businesses.
The sad fact is that if anything, we need more cultural activities and books to encourage people to learn, expand their horizons and fight intolerance and backwardness.
Revising the decision will not eradicate it overnight, but is a step in the right direction.
A quick search on the web exposes a sad reality, not only in Bahrain, but in the rest of the Arab world.
According to the 2002 Arab Human Development Report, Arab countries produced 6,500 books compared to 102,000 in North America and 42,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Citing Unesco figures, the report says that book production in Arab countries is only 1.1 per cent of world production, although Arabs make up 5pc of the world's population.
To add insult to injury, Arabs produced no more than 1,945 literary and artistic books, making up 0.8pc of international production.
This is less than a country such as Turkey produces - with a population about a quarter of that of Arab countries, according to the report.
What a shame!
I will never forget how, after every holiday abroad, my bags were searched at Bahrain International Airport - not because they contained contraband items, but because they were full of books that made custom officers jump up and down with excitement!
The fact that the books were in English and contained very little graphics made them ponder on them longer than they would with other items, until I intervened and told them they were for my studies.
And I wasn't lying, for it was from books that I have learned more than I have at school, university and my working experience - all put together.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Once again, a newspaper report draws our attention to some of the injustices women in Bahrain - and much of the Arab and Islamic world - suffer when their rights and dignity are stripped away, for no other reason than that they are women.
I realise I keep repeating myself and I sometimes wonder whether my comments serve a purpose, or whether they all fall on deaf ears.
No woman deserves to suffer the indignity brought to our attention of a 38-year-old Muharraq widow, who is being threatened with becoming homeless overnight.
Whatever the reasons for the feud with her in-laws, she is a mother with children, whose destiny was to lose a husband at such a young age and face the dilemma of not having a roof over her head, where she can live in peace or do whatever she chooses to do with the rest of her life.
Instead of rallying behind her, for her circumstances are cruel, her in-laws are making her life a living hell, with beatings and abuse, not only for her but her daughter as well.
So what if she brought men to fix the pump at home?
Instead of attacking her, the incensed brother-in-law, who happens to live in the same house, should be asking himself why he had not been the one responsible for fixing the broken pump.
For him and his wife to gang up against the helpless family is unacceptable and for the police to turn the grieving widow away, without as much as investigating the case and showing the attackers that there still is some law and order, is appalling.
I am happy a lawyer has intervened in this particular case, but my heart bleeds for all the other women, whose voices and cries don't reach us because they suffer in silence in a society which is adamant in treating women as second or even third-class citizens.
Law-makers, the government and parliament should take a closer look at atrocities being committed against women every day and should ask themselves whether they are doing their jobs properly, when half the country's populated is wronged.
Ownership laws should change in Bahrain if we are to aspire to empower women and give them their rightful place in society.
A home should be jointly owned by the husband and wife, for it is paramount for the stability and security of the family as a whole.
For society to wash its hands of such atrocities being committed against helpless women and girls is ridiculous and for us all to watch injustice committed and keep our lips sealed is shameful.
*Amira Al Hussaini currently lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 300|| |
Hurray! With 10 months to go for the parliamentary elections, a woman has already voiced her plans to run the race - against an Islamic fundamentalist, that is. As much as I adore the courage shown by women's rights activist Mariam Al Rowaie, the last election has proved to us without doubt that bearded men fared better than those who prefer a clean shave.
And women? Well, out of the eight women candidates, not all are blessed with facial hair and not a single one won a seat, making me wonder whether we as a Bahraini nation are more prejudiced towards body hair.
While the constitution gives men and women equal political rights, society has seriously undermined the democratic reforms by unilaterally deciding that only men get the votes and the right to join the legislative branch of governance.
It has automatically alienated half of society, leaving issues of concern to women and families away from the debating floor.
Yes, some people may argue that women have made some hard-won gains, thanks to the direct intervention of parliament.
We now have veiled women driving cars on our roads and this was only possible because the issue was raised and rubber-stamped by the 40-man strong parliament.
Too bad, women cannot go to women-only classes at Bahrain University, female patients cannot be seen by women doctors only and girls cannot shop in women-only malls.
But there is always hope that these issues can still be debated and approved by parliament, if hardliners get their way again and the silent majority continues in its hibernation.
If you want a blunt opinion, the truth is that parliament does not reflect society and doesn't give outsiders or even Bahrainis for that matter a true picture of the real Bahrain.
But the fact also remains that it is our own doing. Not enough women stood for the last elections for many reasons - the very same reasons why some competent men shied away from ridiculing themselves and standing for an election they knew before hand they would not win.
If you are a believer in the theory of probability, then you know as much as I do, that if enough women join the race, there are likely to be some who will make it to the finish line. Let's see how many women play their cards right this year.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 286|
Can someone, anyone, explain to me why plans for a shelter for battered women are still on the shelf when mothers, wives and daughters are still being abused by husbands and fathers, even as I write?
I don't buy the excuse from the Social Development Ministry - which is headed by a woman minister - that a permit is being denied because the group (Al Sharaka Amnesty International) which has applied for it is not registered with the ministry.
I think there are more sinister forces out there who do not want to see women given a choice, a safe haven to turn to when life becomes too miserable to bear and the walls of a horror house they are forced to live within become too suffocating.
In our society, a woman has no other place than her father's or her husband's house - or her grave.
Any woman living outside the parental or marital home is seen as a source of shame and an object of suspicion.
Women are continuously monitored, least they decide to take charge of their own affairs and bend some already twisted rules.
It is sad that in a country which has gone a long way to give women equal rights, including free access to education and the right to vote or stand in parliamentary or municipal elections, women still lack so much when it comes to protection from domestic abuse within their own homes.
It is the norm for families and friends not to get involved in family disputes, even when they turn violent - even when bones are broken and spirits are crushed.
With family and friends turning away and refusing to interfere, the problem is compounded by the lack of a written family law and penalties to punish those involved in domestic abuse, though parliament has at last taken up the cause.
Even doctors say they can't do much when women are admitted to hospital with broken bones and bruises, when the women themselves are too afraid to press charges because they know it won't get them anywhere and may bring them more trouble when they go back to the hell called home.
What is better, a temporary shelter for abused women, which gives them a chance to clear their heads and seek a permanent solution to their suffering away from threats, or continued abuse simply because they have nowhere to turn for protection?
The choice is simple and is obviously in the hands of the Social Development Ministry, which should come up with a solution matter quickly, since family affairs come its umbrella.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 258|
Excuse my ignorance but I really don't understand all the fuss over the personal status law. Why is it taking this long to pass a law which is aimed at safeguarding the cornerstone of society, the family unit, stipulating the rights and responsibilities of every member of the family (be it man, woman or child)?
What is wrong with unifying a code of conduct which helps deal with domestic issues in a civilised and organised manner?
Why are some people so opposed to the idea of giving men, women and children their social, legal and religious rights in the form of a written law, which could give people an idea of what their rights and responsibilities are - even if it is only on paper?
We all agree that there are problems in some homes which cannot be solved amicably and which should be taken to another level and we all know how long it takes for our courts to process cases, from petty thefts to gruesome murders.
Divorce, abuse and custody battles take their toll on family life and should be resolved in a systematic manner - not according to the whims of certain individuals.
Why are clergymen so against having a unified written family law in a country like Bahrain, where the population doesn't exceed 700,000 and where the majority of people are Muslim?
And why is the government, which had no reservations in passing the controversial societies and demonstrations and public gathering laws, playing the waiting game and allowing this issue to be blown out of proportion?
It is in the interest of all parties to ensure that families are stable and that people know what their rights and obligations are within the family unit.
I realise the issue isn't as simple as I make it sound. I also understand that there are a few subtle differences in the way clergymen interpret family law in Islam.
But what I can't accept is how can a problem, which has remained unsolved for so long, be blown out of proportion when its declared purpose is to ensure the rights of men, women and children in a state of law.
To all those squabbling factions out there, stop fretting and get down to work. The more time wasted on issuing a law of this magnitude, the more women, children and even men will suffer. Injustice isn't a good feeling to grow up with, not when the next generation is at its receiving end.
Let's set our differences aside and try and settle scores on bigger issues - issues which don't involve breaking homes, slamming of doors and social stigma and scars that the victims of divorce and domestic abuse have to cope with for the rest of their lives.
|Vol XXVIII||NO. 253|
Freedom? It's your choice...
Apparently the fight is now on in Bahrain to protect personal freedom and safeguard the very values the reforms of 2002 are based on.
These include respect for human rights, adherence to international conventions ratified by Bahrain over the years and giving people a shared responsibility in the decision-making process, by electing their own representatives to parliament and municipal councils.
On paper, all this looks great, but something is amiss. People are not happy with their representatives or the decisions being shoved down their throats.
Where have we really gone wrong?
What has happened now which has made people think that those very rights which have been granted following the National Action Charter referendum of 2002 are infringing on personal freedoms and hurting the very economy they were supposed to have catapulted to new heights?
We can continue to stick our heads in the sand, or we can take a good look at ourselves and assess the situation and see how it has reared its head and turned against us, the very people yearning for freedom, respect and equality.
We can't and shouldn't blame it on Islam, because at the end of the day it was us who elected these people to office.
Before someone jumps the gun and attacks me and my religious beliefs, let me make a few things clear: Islam is a great religion. It is an encompassing way of life.
If followed properly - the way Allah decreed and not the way practised by power grabbing men who have twisted it over the centuries to meet their petty selfish needs - is a very balanced way to live life to the fullest while respecting others, protecting human rights and even complying with contemporary international conventions and charters.
Islam isn't the opponent to progress. It isn't that ugly hairy monster which comes in handy for parents wanting to scare their children and should not be abused as such.
The choice is after all up to the people of Bahrain. They can make or break their country.
With 2006 round the corner, I really do hope that people will think with their minds and not their religious affiliations when they entrust another 40 men and hopefully women, with running their affairs.
Amira Al Hussaini now lives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Sunni, Shia, Holi, Arabi, Bahrani, Hasawi and Ajami, to name a few, aren't the names of local exotic dishes you can find in traditional restaurants.
They are what we call each other to describe the ethnic and religious background we come from in our small Bahraini society. And I am using the word small on purpose, to belittle the sickening state of mind many have plummeted to in this age of modernity, reform and national reconciliation.
I find this name-calling business repulsive to say the least. It makes my blood boil because I can't find a reason why such a small society should be torn up and shredded by so many differences and allegiances, when the suffering is one; the happiness is one; and the destiny is one.
At the end of the day, we are all Bahrainis - the good and the bad; the 'original' and the 'not so original'; the ones from a pure Arab descent and the ones whose ancestors came from Iran or wherever; and those who claim to be have lived the land from time immemorial, those who came to Bahrain 200 years ago and those who were granted Bahraini nationality yesterday.
I personally am not ashamed of my background - and like many Bahrainis have a mosaic of traditions, cultures, cuisines and arts to enjoy and appreciate.
In my family alone, we have the Baharna (Shia Bahrainis) and the Arabs (Sunni Bahrainis) and the Ajams (Bahrainis of Persian descent), all living under one roof, eating the same food and laughing at the same jokes.
It isn't heaven on earth all the time as sometimes individuals may become childish and pick on someone else's accent, pronounce a word wrongly or do something which is culturally not acceptable from the collage of civilisation we have picked things from as we progressed.
But there is never mayhem, name-calling and back-stabbing because of one's ethnic and religious background. And no one is ever accused of treason against the state because he prays at this time and breaks his fast at that.
Like our ethnic background, we have inherited our religions and sects. Whether it is the wrong or the right type, is between us and Allah and not for Man to judge.
Bahrainis have lived together, embracing people of all kinds and faiths, and treating them equally over generations.
And now is not the time to create rifts for no other reason than to satisfy the whims of a few children who think that politics is a game they can try their hands at.
To those I say: Grow up and don't meddle in things which could backfire on you and society. This is not the way to show appreciation of one's homeland!
So we brush off a civilisation much older than 5,000 years, just because the people who built it were infidels ?
It has taken me a long time to come to terms with remarks made by MP Adel Al Maawda when parliament discussed the historic A'ali Burial Mounds on July 17, as I find myself running to my medicine cabinet every time they cross my mind.
This honourable MP described the Dilmun Civilisation (3000BC) as "some ancient civilisation from another place and time" !
He was speaking to parliament, made up of Bahrainis elected to office by free elections by the people of Bahrain, during dicussions on whether to sacrifice what remains of the historic burial mounds for housing projects, to meet growing demand for land and homes.
This is a very legitimate concern, especially considering that there are at least 30,000 families on waiting lists for homes from the Works and Housing Ministry.
This is a very plausible cause when we realise that the prices of homes have soared to unprecedented levels, making it difficult for even people earning relatively high salaries to consider buying property in Bahrain.
I fully realise that building for the living is necessary, but our history is just too precious to allow bulldozers ravage it to please the whims of an MP who thinks nothing of those graves, other than as reminders of Bahrain's non-Islamic past.
For him, there is "no need to preserve more mounds since all of them look the same."
To add insult to injury he boasts, that he is "not proud for the country to be associated with the burial mounds."
"We must have pride in our Islamic roots and not some ancient civilisation from another place and time, which has only given us a jar here and a bone there," he told parliament.
So what does this MP think we should do with our blasphemous past ? Do like the Taliban did, when they savagely attacked the Buddha statues of Afghanistan?
Or disown our heritage because the people of Dilmun were not Muslims, because Islam has only existed for about 1,500 years?
Who are we to judge not only people living around us and to infringe on their personal freedoms and beliefs, but also those here long before us ? The way some people think leaves me gasping for air.
Vol XXVIII NO. 44 Tuesday 3 May 2005
By Amira Al Hussaini
I had promised myself not to lash out at MPs again too soon ... but they are not making it easy!
For our honourable MPs are now working towards getting yet another concert banned.
After fulfilling all their promises to the nation, MPs from Al Asala and Al Menbar blocs are putting up yet another fight to halt Star Academy's concert, scheduled to be held in Bahrain later this month.
Just like the infamous Nancy Ajram concert (staged on October 23, 2003), which was given the go ahead by the Information Ministry, organisers of the May 19 show say they also have official approval.
However, our MPs, who have been elected to uphold laws, seem bent on breaking them every step of the way when it comes to any type of entertainment - because they have appointed themselves the nation's vice squad.
After all, Bahrainis cannot behave themselves and need MPs to tell them right from wrong.
Whether we agree with the concert, or its content, or whether we believe it poses a moral threat, the fact is that its organisers have got official approval to go ahead.
This means that in a country with dwindling resources, someone has sat back and thought of a money-making scheme, to bring in revenue in a legitimate way, in line with all the regulations.
But this is not to be.
I am worried that this concert will take the same path as the Nancy Ajram concert and again make my country the butt of jokes in the region and further afield.
In my opinion, calls to ban the Ajram concert brought more harm to Bahrain's reputation and its security than allowing it to simply go ahead.
People are still talking about the concert and the troubles a group of anarchists, who thought they could stop it, caused.
Had the concert gone ahead without trouble, no one would be mentioning it again.
I really don't see what a concert can do to create moral decay in a country where, according to official statistics, almost 26 per cent of people aged 15 to 30 years, have experimented with illegal drugs!
Instead of wasting public resources discussing petty issues, it is high time our honourable MPs came up with better ways to attack this cancer which is slowly eating up our flesh and destroying our only asset - our youth.
Vol XXVII NO. 219 Monday 25 October 2004
By AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
Why am I not surprised at all that the majority of those against having a written family law to protect the rights of women and children are men?
According to a study commissioned by the Supreme Council for Women and conducted by the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research, 64.38 per cent of those who turned down the proposal to have a family law were men.
The sticky question here is: WHY?
Why does the looming family law seem to be a threat to them? Is it because it may, in a way, curtail the unlimited freedom they have on the fate of children and women who fall under their wing? Would it perhaps give those women and children rights and privileges, which will be protected by law and give law-makers the right to intervene and make decisions in 'family affairs'.
Would it maybe, as the study suggests, curb some of the malpractices against women and children, practised mostly by men who feel that their only way of proving their manhood is through terrorising their helpless families?
I am also equally surprised that there were women against the proposal to draft the law. Once again, why? Why are women their own enemies?
I don't see a single reason why women would object to having a law, any law, which may draw a line under what they are entitled to, what their rights are and what their duties and obligations should be.
Over the centuries, I feel women have struggled mostly because of man-made laws which are totally devoid of the message of equality and humanity found in Divine Law. Men made their own rules and interpreted religious doctrines to suit their own selfish needs. They have continued to oppress women and in turn their entire families, even in this modern day and age.
There should be a law to define relations within the family for each and every single person, man or woman, to know what is expected of them and what they would get in return.
It is a shame that the time has come for everything to be set in black and white, even within a family. One would think people get married and start families for peace, stability and tranquillity, for achieving a sense of fulfilment and bringing unlimited joy to their own lives and that of people around them and not the contrary.
Vol XXVII NO. 211 Sunday 17 October 2004
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
IT can't get any better than this? Or can it? The National Assembly opened to much fanfare last week with renewed promises for a better deal for Bahrainis - women, workers, the downtrodden, the whole lot.
But our honourable MPs sure know how to take cues and work hand in hand to create a better Bahrain for the people who freely elected them.
In fact, they are already working on marvellous proposals to make the lives of their fellow citizens better.
With Ramadan here, people take it for granted that life in the Arab World comes to a standstill.
Conferences, exhibitions, meetings, seminars, business trips and all the rest of the activities, like going to work, which ensure that there is Iftar on our tables, come to a complete full-stop. You can't work and fast at the same time. It is that time of the year when many people take their annual holidays because they are in no mood to go to work while they are fasting.
Forget about the real reasons for Ramadan (that's only in textbooks and mosque sermons). Without being specific whether it implies to many, most or all Bahrainis, it seems to be the time to eat (while you are awake) and sleep (while you are fasting) and meet family for Iftar and friends for Ghabgha parties, which continue until the early hours of the morning.
Thanks to the MPs latest suggestion, the Holy Month is now expected to get even better. In their first session ever for this bright new term, they have come up with a proposal which will enable us all to scale greater heights and save humanity and the Muslim world.
They now want to 'decrease' working hours in the government sector from six to five hours during the Holy Month. I really don't know whether to cry or laugh at this. The reasoning behind this proposal: According to parliament second vice-chairman Shaikh Adel Al Maawda it was aimed at helping working women meet their family needs during Ramadan.
But then those proposing the idea saw that it wasn't fair to discriminate between men and women and decided that both men and women should be treated equally and thereby should both "work" fewer hours during Ramadan. Am I really reading, writing and understanding this right? Do you see light at the end of the tunnel the way I am seeing it? Men should be treated equally to women, cries the MP. After all, he says, they "decided to include everyone to be fair, because fasting is for everyone."
Yes, I cannot agree more. Fasting is for everyone but nowhere in the Holy Book does it say that He Who Fasts Shall Not Work.
To add insult to injury, the MPs drafting the proposal claim that reducing working hours would not affect productivity. Oh, PLEASE!
Vol XXVII NO. 170 Monday 6 September 2004
By Amira Al Hussaini
I happened to be on a business trip to London as 1,500 children, parents and teachers were held hostage by 'Islamic terrorists' in a school in Beslan in the North Ossetia region in Russia, bordering Chechnya.
On the day I left Bahrain, the newspaper headlines showed a photograph with a line up of bloodied bodies, news of a Nepalese worker beheaded in Iraq and another 11 shot dead, again by people labelled 'Islamic barbarians'.
On the day I left London, the 53-hour school siege had ended with a bloodbath, leaving hundreds of innocent people injured and killed, including, of course, women and children.
Among the so-called terrorists were Arab Muslims, announced reporters covering the ordeal, in a tone which made this vital piece of information more important than the human tragedy which was unfolding by the minute.
At the time of writing this, two French hostages are being held, again by 'Arab Islamic terrorists' in Iraq, in a bid to blackmail the French government to back off on the hijab ban in schools in France.
You should have seen the disgust and horror on the faces of normal everyday people in the UK capital as they watched the television screens beaming to the whole world what Muslim terrorists were doing to innocent beings, who also have the right to live and work and go to school.
Even 'foreigners' who have lived in the Arab world and interacted with the 'Muslim terrorists' day in day out joined the circus, voicing their disgust with the inhumanity and lack of compassion of 'Islamic terrorists'.
At the same time the world's attention was grabbed by how the Muslims were terrorising the rest of the world, Palestinian children were overcoming another type of terror, in their bid to go back to school, but never mind, this will not be reported as people are now immune to the suffering of the Palestinians.
After all, it has been going on for half a decade and the Palestinians should have become used to it too. Parents should have become used to burying their children just as babies should have become used to living without their fathers. Wives should have become used to living without the support of a terrorist husband, whose only dream was to have a home for his wife, parents and children and to put food on the table for them.
The terror the Iraqis are being subjected to daily, is also something they should accept with a pinch of salt because the cluster-bombs which had maimed their children, the desecration of their holy shrines and the civil war situation their whole country has been thrown in, are only a natural price to pay for getting rid of the monstrous Saddam Hussein and the introduction of a free democracy, civil rights and liberties to a people who have been governed by an iron fist for decades.
I am not defending the hostage takers of Iraq or the gunmen who held the Russians at the school. All I am saying is that atrocities are being committed by everyone - Muslims and non-Muslims - and it is the poor unprotected civilians who are caught in the middle.
Double standards also hurt. They hurt more when they are distorted.
Why is the whole world adamant on coining Islam to any terrorist act involving Muslims? Why is Islam blamed for what individuals do?
Why can't we say Catholic Americans are terrorising Muslim Iraqis and Jewish Israelis are butchering Muslim Palestinians?
Vol XXVII NO. 115 Tuesday 13 July 2004
By Amira Al Hussaini
The clock is running backwards. Bahrain, the Garden of Eden, will finally become the land of peace and tranquillity it always was. The land of the great Dilmun civilisation, where the crows don't croak and people live in eternal bliss.
There will be no vice, no prostitution, no daylight bank robberies, no drug peddling, smuggling or sniffing, no rape, no incest, no adulterous wives and husbands and no cold-blooded murders and stabbings.
In this utopia, policed by the Mullas, there will be no bribery and no one above the law (except the Mullas themselves).
More important, there will be no women in public office, no women in universities, no women in schools, no women on television, no women on the radio, no women on the street, no women. Full stop.
Instead, there will be men and boys. Little boys, who will have more authority and respect than any woman, just because of their gender.
The righteous will take the rule in their hands and go about bullying ordinary people, mostly women and expatriates, who are down-trodden and lack many of their basic civil rights anyway.
A religious police in Bahrain? What are we talking about exactly? Are those pushing for the idea telling Bahraini authorities that they have failed to uphold security and justice and that a bunch of bearded men can now tell people how to behave, what to wear, when to go to pray, where to go and what to do in their spare time?
Where is this taking us to? Extremist parliamentarians have already managed to alienate many real people from the real Bahrain and what real Bahrainis want. They have already told the world that Bahrain is not looking forward to a brighter tomorrow and that investors are better to take their money elsewhere.
Among their few triumphs have been blocking Big Brother, allowing veiled women to drive and squabbling amongst themselves on who got the biggest share of the limelight in the media.
To all those who want to take us back to the Stone Age, the message is loud and clear. We, the real Bahrainis, want to move forward with the times. We, the real Bahrainis, are the future generation and want to have a better Bahrain for our children. We, the real Bahrainis, are proud that our mothers drove cars, travelled to Europe, can speak English, are working and have brought us up with the freedom of choice. We, the real Bahrainis, have also learned to adapt with this freedom and have never let our families or country down. We too insist on handing this freedom of choice to our children. Parents, society and schools taught us right from wrong and the rest was up to us.
Most of us grew up in homes where there are people with religious inclinations and those with none at all. We all considered ourselves Muslim because it is Allah who judges us on the Last Day of Judgment and not men who have decided to terrorise people and tell them they are implementing Allah's law. We all celebrate Ramadan, Eid and Muharram, and all the religious occasions which fall in between, together as one big family - even those of us who don't wake up early enough for the dawn prayers.
Religion is a personal choice and not that instilled in others through terror and the rule of force. It comes from within and for the virtuous, it remains within. It is not something to show off and it is not a reason to show spite towards others, simply because they have not yet seen the'light.'
Vol XXVI NO. 350 Thursday 4 March 2004
BY AMIRA AL HUSSAINI
It's un-Islamic? Is this what we want to tell the rest of the world every time someone asks us why we are not moving with the times?
Why blame Islam for ulterior motives, masterminded by sinister elements aimed at creating discord among members of the one family and hitting development and progress every step of the way?
The latest fuss regarding TV reality show Big Brother is surreal. A BD15 million investment is dropped overnight, 200 people, many of whom are Bahrainis, are left jobless and Bahrain's reputation smeared in international circuits.
I have no explanation as to why the programme - even though I am not a fan - was stopped.
Why has the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation and the Information Ministry succumbed to the bullying of a few?
The programme, if anything, was boring and of no interest to the majority of people in Bahrain. (P.S: I am saying this to ensure that no one brands me as un-Islamic for defending Big Brother.)
People have bigger un-Islamic headaches in real life - like adulterous husbands and wives, alcohol and drug abuse, children sniffing glue, huge phone bills and housing problems, to name a few - and are not bothered with what a bunch of children are up to in a house under 24-hour camera surveillance in Amwaj Islands.
All the problems facing normal everyday Bahrainis are un-Islamic - from the problems caused by some thieving scheming officials to the highly exaggerated interest rates banks impose on unwitting poor people aspiring to improve their level of living by borrowing money.
Why is no one talking about this?
Stopping Big Brother is a big slap to freedom of expression and all the gains made through pioneering reforms initiated by His Majesty the King. The attack the programme has come under is just a scapegoat for a more sinister scheme. It is a matter of principle and by giving in to pressure, we are giving up on all the gains made over decades.
I am not defending Big Brother here but the drastic measures - stopping the show - taken after a little bit of bullying is unacceptable by all standards.
Is this mentality of 'pack up and leave' what we will do every time someone attacks anything - whether a project or an individual - under the banner of Islam?
Surely, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Next, there will be issues of segregation, women driving, women on television and women shutting up and being cocooned at home.
Will taking women out of the picture make Bahrain more Islamic?