Admittedly, it is very small, but I’m afraid to inform you that the answer to the title of this post is a very simple “no”. Perhaps you knew that, but chances are that you had never heard of Bahrain before. Well, now you have. Bahrain is a country in the Middle East that we are generally rather ignorant of, which is a shame, because many important things have happened there. The country is mostly Islamic, a religion that has suffered from a particular amount of ignorance in Western countries, and that means that we can learn a lot from it. So… what is Bahrain? What kind of country is it and what can be learned from it?
On paper, Bahrain is a wonderful country. It has a constitutional monarchy, just like many European countries do, it was the third country in the world to appoint a woman as President of the United Nations General Assembly when they had the chance, women have been able to vote for years and are represented in high political functions, and religious freedom is as prominent as it always used to be in Islamic countries, with Christians and even Jews living side by side with the large Muslim population. In fact, between 2008 and 2013, the Bahraini ambassador of the US was a Jewish woman, despite the tensions between Israel and Palestine in which the US took a very pro-Jewish position.
In reality, Bahrain is still a wonderful country, but not without its issues. Despite recommendations and conclusions by the Human Rights Watch, Bahrain has continued to use torture on some of its prisoners, something it had abolished prior to 2007. Due to this, and several other issues including its crackdown on the Arab spring uprising (which was almost fully ignored by international media), the country has lost many of its high international rankings. The media, for example, is certainly not free, since “undermining the government and religion” is still an offence, one that has caused several journalists to end up in prison. Also, the internet is censored, and the country’s human rights organisation BCHR (Bahrain Centre for Human Rights) has been banned, with its leader only recently being released after a two year prison sentence.
All in all, Bahrain is still a very progressive country, one that has often proven to be a good example for other countries in the region, but in the past few years, this improvement has been declining. And that is a shame, because for the most part, it truly is a great country. Both tourism and education have been booming, making it the first former oil-state to no longer be dependent on its oil reserves, and it appears to be a great place to visit. A great place to explore. Speaking of which…
I’m going to Bahrain. In fact, at the time of posting, I already am in Bahrain. I will be doing a six-week internship there, one that will allow me to explore the country while at the same time writing about it. Not only on here, by the way, but also here. Do feel free to follow if you’re curious. That means that my weekly posts in the coming six week will most likely be Bahrain themed, but worry not: there is plenty to tell! A question you might have, however, is this: “why?” Why on earth would you want to go to Bahrain?
I asked myself the same thing just yesterday while I was packing, but as it turns out, there’s a very good answer: because it’s about time people in the West start noticing the Arab world. And I don’t mean that in the way we’re noticing them now, because right now we see them as a bunch of homophobic, dangerous terrorists. And that’s not what they are. I have written about Islam extensively on this blog over the past year, and I have read the Quran, all of which has taught me that those preconceptions, as common as they are, are awfully wrong. That needs to change. Perhaps I cannot single-handedly convince the entire world of this fact, but I can try. I can make a start. So that’s why I’m going to Bahrain. Because it’s time we create some understanding between the West and the Middle East and because, as shocking as this might be, Muslims are people too. They are human beings. They have thoughts and feelings, but most of all, they have good intentions, just like everyone else. And that’s what I’d like to show to both you and myself in the next six weeks. I hope you’ll stick around.
You can subscribe to my blog on the right side of this page to receive the weekly posts (Mondays around 15:00 BST) right into your mailbox, and if you’re really interested, don’t forget to subscribe/like this and this as well! For some more quick and interesting reads about Islam, I have made a list of my favourite posts at the bottom of this message, but if you really want to understand things better, I can honestly recommend you to read the Quran. You do not have to be a Muslim to read it. It is very interesting and it will make so many of your preconceptions appear to be so incredibly wrong…
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See you next Monday!
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