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Chan'ad Bahraini

(Scomberomorous maculatus Bahrainius)

Note: This page has moved to a new address. Please click on the following URL to get there: http://chanad.weblogs.us/index.php?s=Word on the street. Sorry for the trouble.

Word on the street

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A couple weeks back I wrote about the huge Opposition protest in Sitra, and how it was branded with the official slogan "Consitutional Reform First":

In that post I also mentioned that the pro-government groups, lead by the Salafist group Al Asala, published statements in support of the government in the local papers, and presented its counter-slogan "Bahrain First". Well while driving around today I noticed some roadside signs displaying this same counter-slogan:

I took the above photo in Budaiya near the Northern governorate office (at the same site where I found this sign and this one). However similar signs seem to have been placed all around the island... I saw them in several places along Budaiya Highway, and also in the Manama/Juffair area.

Notice that the signs of both the Opposition and the pro-Government groups feature the national flag prominently. It seems almost like the way in Lebanon how the pro-government protesters responded to the anti-government protests by also utilizing the Lebanese national flag and nationalist symbols, rather than any other communal or party symbols. So here in Bahrain too, the pro-government groups have decided respond to the Opposition's nationalism with more nationalism, but has gone a step further by using the counter-slogan "Bahrain First"; as though that makes any real difference. In any case, I'm relieved that the pro-govt folks have chosen to use the national flag to express their support for the regime rather than plaster mugs of the Royal Three all over the place... thank you Lebanon!

But this is not the only example of competition in the public space taking place currently. There is a (seemingly) religious one going on also. If you're currently in Bahrain then you have probably noticed the religious signs that popped up on lamp posts all over the island about six months ago (I think). They usually have blue type on white background and look like this:

The above sign says "Glorified is God, the Great". Other varieties of the same sign have different phrases written on them, such as: "God is great", "Remember God", "Don't forget God", "Ask forgiveness from God", etc etc... you get the picture.

Recently though (over the past month), a different sign, coloured in green, has arrived on the scene. The sign is often placed near, or adjacent to the white signs shown above. For example:

On top is a variety of the old white sign, and underneath has recently been attached the new green sign. And there is only one phrase written on all of the new signs: "O Allah, send Thy blessings upon Mohammed and the Household of Mohammed". Now, this phrase and the previous ones are commonly used by both Sunnis and Shias. However this one ("blessing upon Mohammed...") seems to have a special significance to the Shia, and is invoked by them far more frequently than Sunnis. So, I'm lead to believe that the white signs were probably put up by one of the Sunni organizations, and the green signs were a tit-for-tat response by one of the Shia groups.

It's all very interesting to study, but I'm not sure if I need street signs to tell me which road leads to God.

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8 Responses to 'Word on the street'

Blogger SillyBahrainiGirl says:

Indeed Chanad.
Thank you Lebanon!    

Blogger Scorpio says:

These guys didn't take down the Hezbollah flags because they were inspired by Lebanon but because the Interior Minister read the riot act to their clerics over their Ashura posters of various hardliners from Iran. So now it's being spun as 'inspired' by Beirut demos.

While the Muslim Brotherhood/Asalah pronouncements against Al Wefaq are motivated by sectarian hatred, there's no doubt they're angling for some sort of quid pro quo from the government. It's no surprise that they choose now to go on the offensive with a key piece of legislation - passing through the lower house on Tuesday salafist outrunner Jassim Al Saeedi's bill for the 'Vice and Virtue' committees. For more read Mohammed Almezel in the Gulf News:


Incidentally, there's a certain irony in that this bill on Vice and Virtue police is about the only thing the Salafists and the Al Wefaq agree on. So there is some hope for progress in finding common ground between the two sides.    

Anonymous Don Cox says:

"Notice that the signs of both the Opposition and the pro-Government groups feature the national flag prominently."

In Britain, the Neo-Fascist party (called "National Front") is the one that uses the national flag most. So much so that the flag is becoming a bad sign.    

Anonymous Anonymous says:
4/08/2005 10:41:00 pm

Natasha is taking a bit of the piss out of the Bahrain First sign, pointing out that was a Jordan trick.


Blogger UmmAli says:
4/09/2005 08:00:00 am

ahhh democracy is breaking out like spring. You know you have Bush to thank for your liberation right? Don't you! Ungrateful Arabs.

It's the neo-con domino effect. Next there will be peace and trade with Israel and the Unocal Khilafa will run all oil and natural gas producing near-eastern countries with peace and justice for all.    

Blogger UmmAli says:
4/09/2005 08:00:00 am

Great blog by the way.    

Anonymous MMM says:
4/10/2005 01:37:00 am

I find those God-themed street signs pretty weird.
I don't quite get the possible message behind them.    

Blogger Chanad says:
4/10/2005 01:42:00 pm

Scorpio, while the Interior Ministry's warnings probably did have some influence on the Sitra protest, I don't think that was the sole reason for the change of strategy. I have noticed a marked change in discourse in Bahrain since the Lebanon protests. The Bahraini flags weren't brought out just because of threats from the government, but because of awareness that a facade of nationalism is a much better political strategy. These guys are politicians and they know what they ared doing.

Umm Ali, thanks for the compliment!    

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