September 23, 2011

Bahrain gets blasted for the wrong offense

I have previously expressed my concerns, admittedly more privately than publicly, about Bahrain's crackdown on anti-government protesters. I think it's a bad way to promote democracy, even in a region with no functioning democracies (Iraq is notable, but hardly functioning). While many of the protesters may be motivated by legitimate grievances, Iran definitely has an interest (and at least some influence) in having these protests get out of control and destabilizing Bahrain, just a narrow Gulf away from its shores.

The latest complaint, from a prominent Shiite cleric in the Sunni-dominated Kingdom, is that Bahrain is a "fake democracy". As far as I know, Bahrain is a monarchy and does not claim to be a democracy per se, so it is neither fake nor a democracy. More than that, its track record on freedom of religion and freedom of expression has been better than most Gulf nations, though there remains much to be done.

There is currently no Shiite example of democracy of any kind, anywhere in the world. Being a Shiite should not be a crime, and I hope my more moderate friends (including my gracious hosts) among Bahrain's ruling class will yet find a way to properly balance the complicated mix of security, political and social forces at play in and around the Kingdom.  I do not mean this as a critique of Shiite political philosophy, but the non sequitur of a Shiite religious leader accusing any Gulf state of being a "fake democracy" seemed too appealing to leave alone.

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