Saturday, April 07, 2007

Defending Free Expression in Bahrain

According to the Middle East Times, Bahrain's crown prince has spoken out against the refusal of government ministers to defend a recent cultural festival condemned by Islamists:

"Nobody has said anything. The ministers' irresponsible attitude is regrettable. I'm very disappointed," Sheikh Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa said in an interview with the Al Ayyam daily.

Sunni and Shiite Islamists who control three-quarters of the 40 seats in parliament voted last month in favor of a motion to set up a commission of inquiry into the "Spring of Culture" festival, which runs in the small Gulf kingdom until mid-April.

Twenty-nine MPs backed the motion, charging that the festival, a joint venture between the government and private firms, violates Islamic morals.

They singled out a musical on a love story written by Bahraini poet Qassem Haddad.

"We all defend religion. We are all Muslim and we respect the opinions of others. But this outcry is not in the interests of the country or its citizens," the crown prince said, denouncing "intrigues that threaten civil liberties" in Bahrain.

The article notes that this is just one example of how Islamists are trying to change the island kingdom's traditional atmosphere of moderation:

Three years ago, they forced the Saudi-owned MBC satellite television channel to suspend production of an Arabic version of the reality TV show "Big Brother" being filmed in Bahrain, charging that it flouted Islamic traditions.

It's a safe bet that Bahraini Islamists will continue their campaign against free expression.


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