Tuesday, September 19, 2006

And the Response from the Bahraini Blogging Community is . . .

is . . .

Well, I can't really find that the relatively small, largely moderate Muslim blogging community in Bahrain is all that excited about the Pope's comments. Actually, I couldn't find any particular post at all.

Everyone there is focused on the parliamentary elections, and tensions about that are probably as high as they were here in the last presidential election.

The newspapers duly report the demonstrations here and there. Maybe there have been some demonstrations, but I've not heard of any yet over the issue.

A cleric in nearby Qatar called for a 'day of anger' on Friday. Friday is the usual day for marches and demonstrations.

It's nice to see that things which we think newsworthy here (or our media thinks is so) aren't necessarily at the top of the list in all Middle Eastern countries.

5 Comments:

Blogger Hilarius said...

'terror free':

A full day having passed without your response, I have deleted your advert/link which, in my judgment as the blog author, did not constitute a bona fide comment on the above post.

With respect,

-H

6:10 PM  
Blogger John said...

Hilarius,
Do you think there is any correlation between the relative prosperity (and small population) of Bahrain and their decided lack of uproar over the Pope's remarks? It often seems that the unrest over these perceived slights to Islam typically come from impoverished, overpopulated Muslim countries, where large segments of the male population are poor, under-employed and angry. And while I am not so naive as to simply believe that a healthy, westernized economy would solve the unrest in the Middle East, I do believe the endemic, crushing poverty is a vital component in the dissent and anger.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

Hmmm . . . that's a good question. Actually, there is crushing poverty in Bahrain, and there is a wide gulf between the haves and the have-nots.

For example, see this video:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-6456354220684200475&hl=en

While I cannot claim to know that the individuals are actually who they claim to be, or that this video does not have other polemical/political purposes, I can attest that the scenes in the streets and alleys and farm areas are quite typical of certain areas of Bahrain, primarily the Shi'a underclass villages. Thus, there is no question that there is crushing poverty in Bahrain, even among the indigenous population.

I once read (in National Geo, I think - http://magma.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0310/feature1/?fs=www3.nationalgeographic.com), that there was extremely high unemployment among Saudi young males, who often receive the benefits of oil money, and use their time to receive an Islamic theological education and have no job skills on the other end. Thus, Egyptians, Indians, and others provide engineering, construction, architecture, and other skilled services while the youth of Saudi are well off, indoctrinated, frustrated, and have too much time on their hands. Arguably this is the source of unrest, and the source of those that foment it with the poorer classes.

The Islamic fundamentalists in Bahrain on the Sunni and Shi'a side are making great efforts to capture the hearts and minds in Bahrain. There was recently afoot a parlimentary effort to require one-way glass in houses (note: so that you could not see OUT, not the intuitive other way 'round) so that people could not 'observe' surreptitiously those on the street. I see this as directed at women. This was sponsored by hard-line Islamists in Bahrain and nearly made it through. There is a similar push to move non-Arab expat workers out of the capital to their own ghettos to keep them out of sight and away from Bahrainis - and there is a push for more stringent requirements on veils.

All of that to say that these are precarious times for Bahrain. Reform minded moderates desperately want more democracy and better living conditions for all Bahrainis, but if they get democracy, they might get it in spades and end up with a miniature version of the Islamic Revolution a la Iran (or, e.g., the Hamas scenario) as Islamic hard-liners may have enough votes to get control of the legislature.

The ruling class, IMO, is in a tight spot as there are hard-liner Sunnis in their camp that are as much a threat to a moderate government as the Shi'a, but are necessary to placate to maintain some control. Meanwhile, the Shi'a community (hard-liners and moderates, for different reasons) are watching the government closely for any monkey business in the voting and will leap on anything to discredit the ruling class and shift the balance of power.

So . . . long-winded way to say - I think that the particular muted response might be attributed to the focus on the elections. The remarks of some Christian prelate are only useful if they can affect the power balance . . . but that balance right now is really dependent on other factors.

I think the muted response from governments in the Gulf Cooperation Council is probably more related to $65+ oil than anything else. They know it's a good deal, and they aren't going to encourage too much unrest. That's just my supposition.

Many people argue that economic 'democracy' will lead to less unrest. I think that's certainly possible. I'm not sure it will lead to more 'open' societies . . . there will still be this struggle between Islam and secularism and there will probably continue to be clashes about that.

10:35 AM  
Blogger John said...

Hilarius,
Thanks for the enlightenment. My ignorance is showing here. I suppose I lumped Bahrain in with what little I knew of the other Persian Gulf emirates (such as Dubai). Clearly, from your description, Bahrain is in a different category. I still do believe that economic reform will help alleviate things, but this must precede any political reform, if indeed political reform is even a desirable outcome, as recent events have given us pause to consider. As you note, the ruling class has very limited options.

7:57 PM  
Blogger Hilarius said...

John:

Ignorance? Hardly! I have heard (but do not know first-hand) that the Emirates also have their share of poverty problems, esp. outside the little playgrounds of the rich they've created. However, Bahrain probably is the least oil-rich of these economies and also has one of the smallest populations.

I agree that economic opportunity can alleviate a great deal and do not wish to pooh-pooh the idea. What most people want/need is clean water, clean food, shelter and sanitation and some meaningful work.

Nevertheless, it's their country, and the course of its political history will be a unique story, like all nations.

Did you get a chance to look at the post on Christianity below?

10:38 AM  

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