Bahrain insider.

Author:Darwish, Adel
Position:Bahrain remains stable despite arson attacks that took place in the country

A spate of arson attacks in Bahrain has been linked to the work of Islamic terrorists or organisations opposed to the island's ruling government.

"Bahrain is a good place for investment," revealed an American businessman with long ties to Bahrain, "but the problem with the Bahrainis is that they just don't have the PR gene, they don't understand how to project their image."

Recently I was covering a spate of arson attacks on clothes and furniture stores and found myself putting the American's statement to the test.

In London my fax machine spat out another message from the Bahraini Freedom Movement (BFM), a handful of Islamist campaigners and a couple of journalists working on Iranian backed publications. The BFM bombard British journalists and members of parliament with faxes accusing the Bahrain government of violating human rights.

On investigation the only 'evidence' the BFM could provide were names of people detained. Further examination of the scant facts available revealed the 'arrested' are often teenage boys, involved in some minor fracas, who are detained by local police then released after a couple of hours when a guardian or a parent collects them from a police station.

In fact, some of those the BFM allege are undergoing torture in Bahraini prisons, were found to be free and in good health by visiting foreign journalists.

Interviews with BFM leaders leaves little doubt about the totalitarian nature of their Islamic Fundamentalist ideology. Their final aim is to declare an Iranian style Islamic republic. An idea frowned upon by the majority of Bahrainis, especially women, who dress in Western-style clothes, drive cars and are among the most highly paid and educated in the Arab world.

Bahrain survived on business and trade long before oil was struck in 1932. The population grew accustomed to tolerance and multi ethnic existence. Bahrain is just about the only place in Arabia where you find synagogues, Sikh, Hindu and Buddhist temples as well as all Christian churches. To survive the post-oil era, Bahrain has built itself up as a service-based economy, the banking centre of the Gulf and an oasis for visitors who drive across the causeway from Saudi Arabia to enjoy Bahrains relaxed laws.

The very concept of free choice seriously undermines the authority of clergymen who call for a totalitarian Islamic state. "A teenager exposed to the latest in Western culture beamed down from satellite television is torn between enjoying himself...

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