I’ve been getting quite a few ominous statements like this recently. Others include “you’re playing a dangerous game”, “you’re being watched very closely”, “be careful” and “people are waiting for you to make a mistake”.
It’s a bit flattering and a bit worrying to be so interesting! Who knew wanting to reconcile could be so controversial! But to be honest, I don’t take myself too seriously. I know some of these comments come from genuine concern, while others come either from envy or spite. At the end of the day I try to stay grounded and stay on the right path. I pray, meditate and contemplate. And I try to do what’s best for Bahrain.
I seem to have angered the extremists on both sides (but more than one person told me that that’s a good sign and that I’m doing something right, who knows). The extreme pro-government camp are angry because I sympathise with some of the opposition’s demands, and that I’m building bridges with them, and the extreme anti-government camp is angry because I dare to support the supposedly evil government.
But I also get a lot of positive feedback, which I appreciate immensely. It seems I have quite a following of “moderates” who agree with my views – or most of them at least.
Quite a few people from in and out of Bahrain have either predicted or suggested that I “get into politics.” That’s never been part of my plan. Politics is a dirty game. One friend described it saying “politics is like wrestling in the mud, even if you’re clean you’ll still look as dirty as the other guy.”
Why I do what I do
My main motivation is helping this country heal and reconcile, it’s what drives me now. And this motivation fits in well with one of my personal philosophies, which is to take risks.
When I mentor or coach young entrepreneurs and students about starting their own business, I always talk about the “rocking chair test.” This is where you imagine yourself being 90 years old, and sitting on a rocking chair, looking back at your life. You don’t want to end up being 90 years old and wishing you had done this or that, wishing you had spoken when others were too scared to speak.
I tell youngsters hesitant about being entrepreneurs that they should do it, because they might regret not doing it later when they are 90 years old.
I believe in taking risks.
And it’s with this philosophy in mind that I speak my mind about this never-ending crisis. I don’t want to have any regrets. Sure, I might burn myself in the process and be left out to dry, but at least I can hold my head up high and say “I spoke!” while others were afraid to.
Did not ask for this:
For the record, and for those who care, 90% of the media and social media attention I got I did not ask for. Since March I’ve been asked to be interviewed by several journalists, asked to appear on TV, have been invited to international conferences, and even had been interviewed by students doing their theses on social media and the Arab Spring. I’m usually happy to oblige and just go with the flow.
How I help reconciliation:
I was recently interviewed by an American journalist, and I told him that my top priority is to help in Bahrain’s reconciliation. He asked me how I was planning to do that, “by facilitating conversations I replied.”
In the last couple of weeks I’ve spoken to political leaders, current and past government officials, members of the ruling family, medical doctors involved in the crisis, business people and others. Whenever I speak to a pro-government person I try to clarify to them the opposition’s view, and when I speak to an anti-government person I try to explain to them the government’s point of view.
Of course defending the government can be extremely difficult, seeing what some of it’s members did during the crackdown. But I trudge ahead nonetheless.
I learnt during a leadership course that leadership is “about relationships, and the conversation is the relationship.” I’m not claiming in any way to be a leader of any significance, but I’m trying to facilitate conversations, and I’m doing it for the love of Bahrain.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and talk to you soon.