With the current state of regional and global affairs, the greatest challenge facing many countries is the growth of radicalization. During recent years, Bahrain and neighbouring countries witnessed terror attacks as a result of youth radicalization across different communities.
Many attacks led to casualties and to the fear that such acts could lead Bahrain into turmoil. A number of Bahrainis found to have connections with extremist groups like ISIS have faced criminal measures, including revocation of nationality.
Below is a sample of some of the views expressed to Citizens for Bahrain concerning radicalization in Bahrain; whether Bahrainis see a growth in radicalization; and what is the level of concern towards extremist behaviour in the country.
Most Bahrainis recognize radicalization as a threat within both Sunni and Shia communities and acknowledge the need for action to address this. Several people point out how easy it is to radicalize frustrated young people; noting the role of mosques, communities and families in cultivating radical attitudes:
“Many of us choose to live in denial”
“Although life is normal in Bahrain and the security situation is fine, we have to address radicalization and extremism as a nation. Many of us choose to live in denial over that, including the government but it’s a simple fact that the country is witnessing a growth in radicalization of youth within both the Shia and Sunni sects;” said Sarah, age 32, from Manama.
“It is a case of engaging youth in healthy behaviour if they do not have the financial capabilities to travel, go out and explore the world. Keeping young Bahrainis away from extremist religious influence is the key to success in Bahrain. While many areas have youth centres, many others lack a field to play football and engage in sports activities. This is what leads youth to burning tyres on the streets and attacking policemen, rather than reading, playing sports and using their minds in a proactive way;” said Fatima, age 38, from Isa Town.
“ISIS uses mosques as the main hub for recruitment”
“Mosques have played a vital role in brainwashing many Bahraini youth in both the Sunni and Shia community. We all know that for example ISIS uses mosques as the main hub for its recruitment in Bahrain and other countries. There’s certainly a growth in radical behaviour among Sunni youth as well as Shia youth, Sunni Bahrainis in some areas are strictly sectarian and aggressive in their thoughts towards Shias following the 2011 unrest, and a growth in numbers of people with such attributes could be dangerous for Bahrain;” said Ahmed, age 31, from Muharraq.
“Bahrain does not face a growth in radicalization among youth. You can see Bahraini youth with different backgrounds who are well spoken, outgoing and tolerant towards others. There might be some cases of radical behaviour but this does not mean that we are living in a radical society and that we have to face the challenges of radicalization;” said Ibrahim, age 38, from Riffa.
“Radicalizing the youth isn’t a very difficult task”
“It is the silent radicals that we fear, those who do not look like radicals but work towards radicalization and have the potential to mobilize people for any cause. Steps need to be taken by the government and civil society organizations to prevent the growth in radicalization. We have witnessed extreme violent behaviour by many Bahraini youth and while having conversations with young people from different communities you will realize that radicalizing the youth isn’t a very difficult task;” said Khalid, age 29, from Hamad Town.
“Religion is certainly the main tool used for radicalizing youth in Bahrain. Young people are bound to hold on to religion in certain communities when they lack a proper standard of living, sources of entertainment and when they face severe economic challenges that does not even allow them to watch a movie with a group of friends at the nearest cinema;” said Ali, age 35, from Saar.
“Bahrain is still a tolerant and progressive country”
“I believe that Bahrain is still a tolerant and progressive country that certainly faces many challenges but a growth in radicalization isn’t one of them. We have to be realistic, it is not a war zone where people have declared jihad and war against each other. The beauty of Bahrain lies in its people, Sunnis, Shia, Christians, Jews and others have lived alongside each other for decades and the recent sectarian behaviour is among a minority of Bahrainis. You can see sectarianism, extremism and radicalism in any country but this doesn’t mean that such behaviour is taking over the entire society. Sectarian and radical Bahrainis are a minority and they will always remain a minority;” said Mariam, age 32, from Sanad.
“At the time of political unrest, it is expected that Bahrain or any other country would witness attempts to radicalize young people. However today the society is moving forward and the Bahraini youth are moving forward. It is just a phase and young Bahrainis from radicalized communities realize that their priority is to live a better life rather than engage in violence. The government has many programmes that support youth, basic education is free and higher education at the University of Bahrain is affordable, the state has provided the right setup for a non-radical society, it is the people who do not make good use of it;” said Salman, age 28, from Manama.
“Radicalization starts within the family”
“Radicalization starts within the family, if the parents are extremists and support radical behaviour then the children are bound to grow up as radicals who have nothing but a culture of hate towards anyone who is different. You can find some Bahraini families who act in such a way but it does not seem like a crisis that’s spreading across the society;” said Hassan, age 30, from Isa Town.
“Since the number of radicalized youth is currently low, we have to all work together to keep the numbers low and to perhaps even overcome radicalization. It’s a growing threat, but many people do not realize it, we have to fear a future generation of radicals that has no appetite for a liberal, progressive and tolerant society and hence we should wake up and learn from other countries in order to maintain a peaceful, stable and healthy environment in our country;” said Mona, age 36, from Muharraq