Jan 2nd, 2014 

What have Al-Wefaq Islamic Society’s clerical leadership been doing with all their spare time since withdrawing from the National Dialogue?

We now discover that they’ve been putting their artistic talents to creative use by turning their headquarters into a “Revolution Museum”.

The exhibits in this museum range from the bizarre to the tasteless. Visitors are treated to the display of a child being run over by a car and mocked-up bodies of ‘martyrs’; as well as being treated to “the painful experience of the oppressed prisoners”, with an actor on hand to “interrogate” visitors. Hmmm, this sounds like a pleasant bit of light entertainment to take my kids along to at the weekend!

Participation in the National Dialogue was an opportunity to positively shape Bahrain’s future. Instead, Al-Wefaq are painfully and divisively trying to dig up the past and remind us yet again of the traumatic events of February-March 2011 from their own highly partisan perspective.

You won’t see any colourful depictions of protesters murdering policemen here; or savage attacks against South Asian foreign workers; or firebomb attacks against Shia figures who bravely spoke out against the rioting. This is very much Al-Wefaq’s narrative on display; where all protesters are peaceful; all Government supporters are brutal thugs; and anyone who died during violent rioting is elevated to martyr status.

Perhaps one of the most surprising things about this museum is its name. By calling it the “Revolution Museum”, Al-Wefaq is publically acknowledging what their leaders have always denied – that Al-Wefaq Islamic Society’s aim is “revolution”.

When talking to the international media, Al-Wefaq have tended to imply that their aims are toppling the Government and altering the governing system – not bringing down the Monarchy and establishing an Islamic Republic of Bahrain, as other extremist groups like Al-Haqq were calling for.

However, it has always been obvious from Al-Wefaq’s tactics that they have revolution in mind; by boycotting talks; by resorting to street violence; by encouraging their supporters to participate in illegal rallies and rioting; and by condoning the actions of more militant groups.

Were the authorities right in closing down this museum? Almost certainly Al-Wefaq planned this confrontational museum knowing that it would provoke a reaction and therefore serving their own propaganda purposes. We will wait and see what evidence the Interior Ministry produces that Al-Wefaq’s headquarters had been found to be harboring “incendiary devices”. However, it is obvious from the photos of this exhibition that it was designed to be inflammatory.

How does dragging up old allegations of torture and abuses help Bahrain move forward? How does exploiting the language of martyrdom and victimhood help us build a better and more unified society?

Those of you who missed the opportunity to visit the Revolution Museum freak show can resort to the massive coverage of this exhibition found in the Iranian media, which reported this news to great fanfare and endless photos of the grizzly and disturbing displays: http://abna.ir/data.asp?lang=3&Id=476382

Al-Wefaq’s tedious narrative of victimhood and martyrdom is a self-fulfilling prophesy. By teaching children to shout “down with the king” before they are old enough to have any grasp of politics; by turning their neighbourhoods into riot zones where businesses are forced to close and they can depend on a pool of unemployed and angry young men who have cut themselves off from the rest of Bahrain’s society.

These angry young men benefit from the best of free housing, free education and free healthcare from the day they are born, but because they have been brought up on Al-Wefaq’s militant sermons of hatred for the “regime”; opposition to the political system; and radical Islamist-sectarian beliefs.

We can disagree with aspects of the Government’s handling of the unrest and hope that political reform is expedited. However, Al-Wefaq with its divisive religious-political narrative is guilty of seeking to create a divided and polarized Bahrain to serve its own political objectives.

The “Revolution Museum” is another small part of that narrative of division, “oppression”, “victimization” and “martyrdom”; with the aim of further brainwashing its followers and alienating them from mainstream society. This dangerous and corrosive has done great harm. For this reason, few of us will be shedding any tears that Al-Wefaq’s Revolution Museum has been closed down.

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