Bahrain successfully breaks the stereotype associated with the Arab world.
We all have some set stereotypes attached to the Middle-east – men in white, women in black, the ruthlessness of Sharia, an uncompromising nature of its people.
Well, Bahrain just brought a whiff of fresh air. If you don’t know about this tiny Middle-Eastern country situated somewhere in the midst of all the giants (Saudi and Qatar) that manage to make headlines, you should definitely learn a thing or two about Bahrain.
Bahrain has rejected a bid by a lawmaker to ban pork. This rejection was because the government believed it goes against the non-Muslim population of the country. Yes, you heard it right. According to officials, it is always taken care that the pork imported matches mandatory cleanliness standards, therefore there is no dire need to ban the food commodity at all!
You never expected that a country surrounded by strong Wahhabi loyalists like Qatar and Saudi would ever pass such a decision. Maybe because we all come with our preconceived notions that homogenizes everything.
Okay, let’s begin with what makes Bahrain so “tolerant” about other cultures:
1. Centre for commerce
Bahrain has a very open economic policy. It has not dwelt on the riches that oil provides. The country has since then diversified into a lot of sectors like banking and regional commerce. This encouraging atmosphere has allowed Bahrain to adopt Western ideals because of the frequency of exchanges with the West. Hence, laws are more relaxed and freedom granted to individuals is more than other Middle-Eastern countries.
2. Lenient Sharia laws
In Bahrain, it is not compulsory for a woman to wear a niqab or a hijab. Women are free to drive and there are different agencies that are strictly concentrated towards startups by women. Alcohol is available for consumption.
Since law has been molded so much to accommodate diversity, I think it might be one of the reasons why the government could overlook what the Sharia prohibits and create a friendly climate for thousands of its non-Muslim population.
3. High expat population
Bahrain has been briefly colonized by the Portuguese and the British. As a result, there are expats living in this country for over a hundred years (nearly half a million). It is important that equal respect is paid to every culture, and people find a home in the country. Bahrain’s 2002 Constitution guarantees the rights of all faiths and freedom of worship.
Since pork is considered licit by many religious communities, it was important that such a rash decision on its banning is challenged and eliminated.
I think it is time that we stop considering the Middle-East as one single entity and recognize that there are different countries with different cultures of their own.
The next thing that India should supposedly learn is to accommodate diversity. Not to say that Bahrain might not have its own problem pertaining to diversity, but I want the present government to notice that this Arab country had respected the traditions of its expats that have been there for over a hundred years, and we are making life uninhabitable for those who belong to the same fabric.
Bahrain’s decision reminds one of Canada and how it boasts of its progress because of its diversity. We can be Canada too. We just have to recognize that diversity makes, and never breaks.