This photo was floating around the internet today. It shows prominent opposition leader and head of Al-Wefaq Society Sh. Ali Salman offering his condolences to His Majesty King Hamad on the demise of his grandmother, Shaikha Mouza bint Hamad Al-Khalifa, God rest her soul.
I guess this is a good example of the old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” What to make of it? Here are some conclusions I’m drawing from this photo:
– It shows, as always, His Majesty’s compassionate and understanding nature. I don’t know if Sheikh Ali Salman had to take permission before attending the Azza [funeral reception], but either way I think it’s gracious of King Hamad to receive him.
– Though I have to be honest when I say I don’t trust Sh. Ali Salman that much, nor do I have a lot of respect for him [I thought his behaviour during the Bahrain crisis arrogant and bizarre to say the least], I like how he still made sure to offer his condolences. Is he kissing up? Maybe, but good of him to show his respect to his head of state.
– Where is he kissing him? not so easy to tell, but judging by the angle of His Majesty’s face it looks like the kiss is on the cheek, not the nose. Now, for my Western readers this statement might seem strange, so allow me to explain. In Arabian Gulf countries, it is a sign of respect to kiss a tribal leader or someone of prominence on the nose, rather than the cheek. So if one were to greet the king or other prominent members of the ruling family, they would kiss on the nose. Having said that, this custom is not set in stone and there are many who do not follow it. So I would not place too much importance on where he was kissed.
– The photo shows what Bahrain really is (or was leading up to the crisis); a multi-religious, multi-ethnic society built on mutual respect and understanding. Of course there’ve been problems from time to time, but these are created by extremists. Most of us get along and respect each others religions and views. I’ve lost count on the number of times I’ve visited Shia matam’s where I went to mourn and to celebrate with friends and acquaintances.
– Is it a sign of things to come? A step closer to reconciliation perhaps? Difficult to say. There is so much bad blood on all sides. Many sunni’s are lobbying hard with calls of “no more royal pardons” wanting the protestors/rioters and their leaders to get the strictest punishments. One thing I have no doubt about though, is that reform will continue, and perhaps even accelerate. Wait and see.
As we’ve heard many times, the government’s immediate concern is national security. The post-crisis crackdown is not over yet, but it does seem to have slowed down. Many prisoners have been released after questioning, and many have gone back to their jobs. I imagine reforms will continue after the crackdown and state of emergency are over.
Should the government still have dialogue with Al-Wefaq? I’m not sure how willing the government is, seeing how un-parliamentarian Al-Wefaqq behaved during the crisis (resigning from parliament, striking at the Pearl Roundabout and having the audacity to call for a constitutional assembly, among many many other offensive actions).
Personally, I think it might be a good idea for Sheikh Ali Salman to resign, and for Al-Wefaq to choose a new leader. This would be a very powerful gesture by the opposition, seeing how little credibility the sheikh has left, especially among the sunni members of the population. Since he was so willing to call for the resignation of the government, why not practice what he preaches? Show that he was wrong, go home and let someone else take over.
Well those were my two cents… it’s funny how a picture can mean so much. Either way, I hope it’s a sign of good things to come.
Talk to you soon.