14th Apr, 2013 –

We were pleasantly surprised to hear the Secretary General of Al-Wefaq Islamic Society, Shaikh Ali Salman, tell the media: “We do not want to hold up the race, but we are trying to benefit from the increased media presence.”

This is the first time we’ve heard Al-Wefaq say officially that they are not against the Grand Prix, and not seeking to get it cancelled.

Perhaps it is too optimistic to claim that this is a sign of a new pragmatism from the opposition; but this is at least a sign that they are willing to admit what has been obvious to the rest of us for a long time: That the Grand Prix is vital for Bahrain.

The Formula One brings in hundreds of millions of dollars to Bahrain’s economy and is a provider of hundreds of jobs. For one week of the year Bahrain is in the international sporting spotlight. For many people round the world the Formula One is the only reason they know of the tiny state of Bahrain.

If the opposition’s rioting and violence had succeeded in permanently cancelling the Formula One, then this would have done serious economic and reputational damage to Bahrain for years to come.

However, Shaikh Ali Salman’s new pragmatism does not seem to have seeped down to the rank and file of the opposition. Why were hundreds of demonstrators attending legal and licensed rallies calling for the Grand Prix to be halted?

Al-Wefaq should clearly tell their followers that the Formula One is necessary for Bahrain – irrespective of political issues or the results of the National Dialogue.

This comes down to a deeper question: Does Al-Wefaq want to be part of a national opposition working for the good of Bahrain? – Or does Al-Wefaq want to prioritize its partisan and sectarian aims – and to hell with the Bahraini nation?

For the last two years, since Al-Wefaq walked out of Parliament, it seemed that they wanted to secure their own aims, at the expense of the nation. This was through rioting, violence, vandalism, roadblocks, strikes, incitement and propaganda campaigns. All of which sought to ruin the Bahraini economy and bring the country to its knees.

We can’t – from a brief comment to the press – conclude that Shaikh Ali Salman has realized the ineffectiveness of this catastrophic policy of working against Bahrain.

However, we can at least urge him to make his position clearer, commit fully to the National Dialogue and tell his supporters that working against the Formula One and working against Bahrain will not benefit anyone; let alone the poorest and most vulnerable parts of society who require jobs, social support and better prospects.

Al-Wefaq have lied to their supporters for too long about the better future they can expect if they succeed in their aim of “bringing down the regime”. They know as well as the rest of us that this won’t happen, and they also know that such a revolution would be a disaster that would bring misery and instability for hundreds of thousands of Bahrainis, definitively ruining Bahrain’s economy.

The Formula One is great for Bahrain as an event that benefits and unites us. Let’s hope to hear Shaikh Ali Salman and Al-Wefaq saying this a little more often and with a lot more assertiveness.

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