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Bahrainis criticize Islamist MPs proposals for banning music

Citizens for Bahrain analysis

Bahrain is a pioneer in many ways, particularly in the various domains of arts and culture. While the country is experiencing progress towards reform and democratization, we see several barriers. One such example is the manner in which some elected MPs want to impose their ideology on the rest of the society.

During last week’s Parliament session several MPs called for a ban on music festivals, Halloween parties and the obligatory music lessons provided as part of the curriculum in public schools. This minority of MPs claimed that music, arts and diversity were not a part of Bahraini culture and that all parties and festivals should be suspended, “in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Syria and Yemen”.

Islamist MPs have a problem with the fact that Bahrain is by far one of the most culturally diverse countries in the region. It is unfortunate no MPs challenged these negative and socially-backwards views. These incidents reveal the lack of articulate progressive and liberal voices in Parliament and civil society which could stand up for the rights of moderate and liberal young Bahrainis when Islamist MPs propose legislation to limit personal freedoms.

As a nation we have previously stood against those who wanted to impose their religious ideology upon those who think differently. We should continue to do so as we develop into a more democratic society that respects the rights and freedoms of all. Below are a sample of Bahraini views on the proposed legislation to ban music in Bahrain, collected by Citizens for Bahrain:

“No sense of democracy or respect for personal freedoms”

“It isn't too surprising for our MPs to come up with such ridiculous proposals. They have done it in the past when they repeatedly attempted to enforce a ban on alcohol and thankfully failed. Islamist MPs have always wanted to further Islamicize society and they simply don't understand that in the case of Bahrain that is impossible; because most Bahrainis are very progressive and liberal in their views and lifestyle;” said Khalid, age 26, from Manama. 

“Do they realize that Halloween is just about small kids running round with silly masks? Such discussions in Parliament are the greatest example that we will always require an appointed chamber of Parliament to challenge the views of those who want to take the country backwards. There is no sense of democracy or respect for personal freedoms in what some of these Islamist MPs propose;” said Maram, age 31, from Saar.

“Bahrainis are living among an expat population that exceeds 50%. Diversity and respect for other festivities is a part of our culture. Some Islamists however, fail to acknowledge this reality and have repeatedly attempted to limit people’s freedoms. Islamist MPs have for years continuously attacked the events organised by the Culture Authority due to their progressive and modern nature, as if it is a personal grudge against Shaikha Mai [Al Khalifa the president of the Culture Authority] who is outspoken and is one of best government officials. The Spring of Culture events, the music festival and others have helped in putting Bahrain on the map as a tourist destination, with several commendable projects that have highlighted arts, history and culture of Bahrain, promoting the country for what it really is;” said Abdullah, age 29, from Muharraq.

 “They choose the most absurd issues”

“There are hundreds of other issues of relevance to the Bahraini public that could be discussed and solved by our MPs yet they choose the most absurd issues... MPs should concentrate on issues such as radicalization, unemployment and others instead of wasting time and getting paid to discuss pointless issues like tattoos and music that do more harm than good to the nation and to the principles of democracy;” said Amal, age 38, from Hamad Town.

“We should certainly be compassionate towards people who are dying in wars across the region and should continuously help in providing aid to those in need. However we have to also survive as a nation and keep moving forward. Music festivals, parties and other functions are undeniably a main part of the country’s economy and we should not take any risks with our economy when our people and country is in most need of further economic development;” said Mariam, age 32, from Manama. 

“The principle of banning music and celebrations in solidarity with the wars in Yemen and Syria simply does not make sense. Perhaps the Islamist MPs should start by banning Eid celebrations. We all know that it’s a part of our culture that during Eid we spend unbelievable amounts of money on new clothes as part of our celebrations. They should start by saving their money to send as charity to people who are at war. These MPs simply have double standards and their proposals are insensible, if we should stop all celebrations due to war then we should have stopped all celebrations for almost seven decades in solidarity with our Palestinian brothers and sisters;” said Ahmed, age 34, from Riffa.

“This reflects badly on our society”

“MPs have objected to the obligatory music lessons in public schools and that’s a rightful proposal. We should focus on other subjects rather than music. Some of us are conservative and would give priority for our children to learn other things. This should be a matter of choice;” said Fatima, age 40, from Isa Town.

“It simply sad to see such issues discussed in Parliament. We are a progressive nation, many Bahrainis are offended by such discussions as this reflects badly on our society, since these are the representatives of the people and majority of the people have never minded music or parties, as they are used to this. It sometimes feels like we’re going backwards. These Islamists and Salafists weren’t anywhere near as influential just 10 or 20 years ago... We have always had people who celebrate Halloween or other festivities. It’s harmless and it isn't alien to our society!” Mahmood, age 34, from Sanad.

“It is good to see the Government standing up to these crazy people and rejecting their proposals. Music is a part of culture. How do we want our future generations to be enlightened and be more tolerant to different beliefs, cultures etc, if we stop them from learning music? Music has been proven to have positive effects on children. It enhances their creativity and levels of positive attitude. It’s a good outlet for their energies – unlike burning tyres or vandalizing buildings… On the contrary music classes and other activities should be the focus of school curriculums as a way to keep children away from extremist and negative beliefs;” said Sarah, age 29, from Budaiya.

“Islamist MPs try to make up for their failures in addressing important issues by raising such pointless concerns and being very vocal about them. They fail to challenge the government in cases of corruption, they have failed in setting up a plan for fighting sectarianism and radicalization, they have failed in providing Bahraini youth with better opportunities and the only thing they can do is use religion for their own benefit... Someone should teach them about the principles of democracy;” said Abeer, age 28, from Manama. 

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