Bahrain’s Crown Prince is right to challenge the lazy terminology of “war on terror”, which serves to obscure the shared objectives of confronting those who commit atrocities in the name of religion.
In his widely acclaimed speech at the IISS Manama Dialogue last year and once again in his Telegraph article, Prince Salman has passionately argued that we need to have a genuine understanding of the challenge we face, before we can hope to successfully defeat the so-called “Islamic State” and those who fabricate religious justifications for acts of savage barbarity.
The conclusion the Crown Prince arrives at is that we are in a war against theocrats. The fact that they claim to be Muslims is irrelevant. These fascists’ understanding of religion is so different from that of 95% of Muslims, for us not to recognize them as Muslims at all. We can make a distinction between the vast majority of us who choose life and desire to make the world a better place for our loved ones – and those who seek death.
These theocrats who Prince Salman identifies are obsessed with death. The Satanic State’s videos are orgies of death in its most brutal and graphic varieties. It is as if they are saying to the recruits they are seeking: “Come to a place of death, where we leave dismembered corpses hanging in the streets and if you show that you are worthy of joining us, we will bestow on you the honour of becoming a suicide bomber.”
One reason why I am proud to make Bahrain my home and destiny is that it is the model of tolerant coexistence that these theocrats detest. It is of no interest to me whether the people I live and work alongside are Christians, Muslims or Hindus.
We judge people to the degree that they embrace life and productively make the most of the opportunities that come their way. Life is all too short and we must make the most of each day we have.
Prince Salman is absolutely right to state that religion must be above politics and separate from politics. Every attempt to mix the two has only discredited religion and resulted in a politics of divisions and conflict. Prince Salman states clearly: “What we cannot have is a man, an individual, placed at the top of an ideology, who has the power by religious edict to strip someone of their hereafter and use that for political gains.”
This is precisely the failing of both Iran’s principle of Welayat al-Faqih and Emir Baghdadi’s “Islamic State”. They claim to act in the name of religion, but end up imposing the ideology of flawed and fallible individuals that usually end up in purges of all those who think differently. Theirs is a theo-politics of death; not a politics of life where the wellbeing of citizens is the primary criteria for the success of political leaders.
We have just celebrated the anniversary of the 2001 referendum on King Hamad’s National Action Charter. This charter enshrined the rights of people of all faiths and set Bahrain on the course of political reform and constitutional monarchy.
In the recent parliamentary elections, Islamist political societies fared very badly, as Bahraini citizens chose pragmatic policies over theocratic ideology. People want to see their standards of living improve. People want to see parliamentarians who prioritize the interests of their citizens and people want a political system where their rights and freedoms are respected and protected.
Under King Hamad, Crown Prince Salman and the Prime Minister we have a political vision that is the complete opposite of the theocrats of the “Islamic State”. Point-for-point we see Prince Salman spelling this out in his article:
“They isolate themselves and place no value on the social contract established among ourselves as societies of human beings. They oppress women and slaughter those who do not condone, approve of or subscribe to their own twisted ideology. They also govern by religious edict, constraining the use of reason itself among would-be believers. Their methodology combines the tactics of religious ideology alongside lawless paramilitary rule. It is fuelled by the gains of criminal enterprise in order to establish the fiction of governance, through which continues the desperate fight for geographic territory to claim, protect and rule.”
By celebrating violent atrocities, Daish will only attract those who love violence and desire death for themselves and for others. Our societies are well rid of such people and we hope that these murderers, rapists and criminals go to Iraq and Syria and find the quick and brutal death that they are seeking.
Those of us who remain can most effectively show our rejection of Daish and all it stands for by embracing life and seeking to make the best future we can for our society. Let us instill hope and a love of life in our young people, so that the bleak narrative of the theocrats holds no appeal for them.
We should demonstrate that Islam is a religion of tolerance and make Bahrain lead the Arab world as a haven of peaceful coexistence, by not discriminating against others based on sect, religion or ethnicity.
Let us choose life and celebrate living.