Bahrain Lives Real Tolerance

The whole Arab world, including Bahrain, failed to pay attention to the significance of the International Day for Tolerance, which passed on 16 November. However, civil society organizations in Bahrain conducted some activities to commemorate the occasion.

Tolerance as a concept, value and virtue is connected to a number of concepts and greater human values. It also paves the way for the creation of cooperative and harmonious societies despite their cultural, religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity.

Tolerance is especially important to Bahrain as it is a country where Sunnis, Shias, Ismailis, Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and Baha’is have all co-existed for a long time. This is not a coincidence, as there is no such diversity in any other GCC country.

Religious tolerance among the Bahraini public is the real reason behind the existence of such diversity. The Government, which is the main decision-maker in the country, has long realised that there is a social susceptibility to host this kind of diversity. This is reflected in the existence of churches, temples, graveyards, religious groups and civil society organizations. Also, in the freedom to practice rituals, set up private schools and celebrate special days and holidays.

It is important to sustain this state of tolerance in Bahrain in order to promote unifying human values and partnership on the basis of land and mutual interests. New generations should also be educated that cultural diversity is a great asset, and does not constitute barriers or ghettos, rather, it is an opportunity for openness, dialogue and enrichment.

The closer the political system is to democracy, the easier it will be to take steps and adopt projects that help bring people together, prevent the creation of boundaries and obstacles, and make it difficult for extremists to be influenced with foreign ideas. It would also prevent any social or political polarizations on the bases of ideology, ethnicity or stereotypes.

Without tolerance, the rule of law, and the margin of freedom which the new democratic experience provides, the country’s diversity will be threatened, and it may become an obstacle in the development of the State, instead of being a unique characteristic of Bahrain. As a result, the country could lose its immunity against extremism, hatred and misleading philosophies, which are based on the monopolization of the truth.

In order to maintain a tolerant society and make our country immune against extremism and hatred, we should look for new programmes and policies that promote tolerance and educate new generations through schools and religious rhetoric. We should also treat all citizens and residents equally without discrimination or denial of their rights. This will promote tolerance on the ground and prevent the appearance of intolerant stereotypes of the ‘Other’.