The media likes using labels, which can make issues seem simpler and clearer for their readership. Therefore, in Bahrain groupings like Al-Wefaq will conveniently be labelled “opposition” and anyone on the other side of the fence is likely to find themselves labelled “loyalist” or “pro-government”.

However, there is always a risk that when you simplify you actually obscure the reality of what is going on.

Since the beginning of 2011, Bahrain’s society did indeed become very polarized. As a result, the opposition is overwhelmingly Shia; and pro-government figures are likely to be Sunni, although many Shia remained loyal to the Monarchy and the Government.

As a result, the most vocal figures tend to fit neatly in one side or the other. However, this doesn’t mean that most Bahrainis fit squarely in one or the other of these camps.

For a start, Bahrain doesn’t have a political tradition of clearly defined political parties; particularly among the Sunnis, most MPs have tended to be independents and the Islamist and Salafist political societies have been relatively marginal.

Only on the Shia side, an opposition society like Al-Wefaq has sought to monopolize political support in relevant constituencies. As a result, Al-Wefaq held nearly half of the Parliamentary seats prior to their mass resignation at the time of the unrest (18 out of 40 seats). However, Al-Wefaq’s tactics over the past three years have certainly alienated many of its former supporters.

As a result, a substantial proportion of Bahraini society wouldn’t automatically define themselves as straightforwardly pro or anti-Government, on every issue. There certainly isn’t the kind of deeply rooted political tribalism that people take for granted in countries like the UK, where a substantial proportion of the public in specific parts of the country would vote “Conservative” or “Labour”, whatever the circumstances.

We should also remember that in the early days of the protests, the majority of demonstrators were calling for reform within the context of a Constitutional Monarchy. Only certain militant elements subscribed to the call for an Islamic republic.

So traditionally, most Bahrainis are comfortable with the established institution of Constitutional Monarchy; and support for the King doesn’t necessarily mean support for a particular Government, political society or ideology.

We should also bear in mind that more than half of those who live in Bahrain aren’t Bahraini and generally aren’t even Muslims. We are referring here to expatriate residents; whether from South and Southeast Asia; or from Europe and the West. It is safe to say that the majority of these are unnerved by the opposition’s Islamist agenda and by the consequences of the continued unrest.

After three years of rioting, blocked roads, terrorist bombings and sporadic violence, a significant proportion of Bahrain’s society is increasingly angry at the opposition’s tactics of protests, boycotting Parliament and stoking up sectarian tensions. This is particularly the case after the deaths of four police officers in the space of a month, which stirred up a very genuine public outcry.

It shouldn’t need to be said that this widespread distaste for the opposition’s inflammatory methods and their Islamist and revolutionary aims; also do not necessarily mean full support for a particular political orientation or blind loyalty to Government.

This is why many mainstream Bahraini organizations are often uncomfortable with labels like “loyalist” or “pro-Government”. One can be angry about militant elements of the opposition murdering policemen without being beholden to the Government.

For example, many moderate dislike the opposition; but would disagree with delaying visits to Bahrain for the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture; considering this to be a counter-productive move that creates the wrong impression about the situation in Bahrain.

The concerns of such Bahrainis towards the sectarian, divisive and Islamist agenda of the opposition is in tune with parallel concerns about certain hardline Sunni religious figures, who have abused their influence to try and force intolerant measures through Parliament and reduce the freedoms and rights enjoyed by all Bahrainis.

Citizens for Bahrain aspires to articulate the voices of moderate and forward-thinking Bahrainis. Therefore, you will see us criticizing those whose activities are harming our society. We reserve this right to articulate our criticism; whatever their sect or political orientation.

However, for most moderate Bahrainis, the greatest domestic threat facing us today is the intolerant and backwards-looking vision of militants within the opposition camp.

We do not want Bahrain to be run by a clique of Ayatollahs and clerics who have forced their way to power through street agitation and violence; and our small and diverse society should not be threatened by gangs of terrorists who want to gain political influence by killing policemen and detonating bombs in public areas.

The mistake commonly made by those outside Bahrain is to look at our society as two political camps, of which you can only be on one side or the other. One reason for Citizens for Bahrain’s very existence is to defy that logic and show that there is a silent majority of Bahrainis who want to get on with their lives safe from violence, rioting and terrorism.

In future, we would ask you to listen more carefully to what these segments of Bahrain’s society have to say; because only by empowering these parts of society can we expect Bahrain to progress as a pluralist, tolerant and open society.

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