Friday, May 1, 2009

The Injustice of Telling the Truth

Some of you may remember my post about my friend, Maryam alSherooqi, who is facing up to 7 years in jail for an article she wrote in one of our local papers, Al Wasat, concerning discrimination in Bahrains Civil Department. That post is here

She has been to court several times and so far nothing has been decided...good news or bad Im not sure.

Anyhow, I couldnt help but feel even more pissed off about her whole case while I was perusing yesterdays other local paper, the Gulf Daily News. I came across a little snippet of news that is not shown on the website so I cant link to it...but anyone can check yesterdays paper if they want to read it.

It appears that while lecturing a college class on history etc last year, an American teacher "blasphemied" the Prophet by attempting to draw his likeness on the chalkboard. Apparently one of her Bahraini female students took exception to this and reported her to the proper authorities. I remember hearing about this teacher sometime last year but didnt really look into it. A lot of the time they just peter out and nothing ever comes of it.

The little snippet of news in the paper happened to mention that this teacher was found guilty and was fined and jailed for 6 months...and then will be deported.

So let me get this straight...."blasphemy" the Prophet you get 6 months in jail and a fine plus deportation. "Blasphemy" Bahrains Civil Department you get harassed by govt officials...threatened with loss of job...your salary is with held with no explanation given...your reputation is shredded by under the table sabotage and innuendo...and your faced with 7 years of jail in a case in which you have not broken any laws, called anyone a liar. or lied in general?

Now I dont believe the teacher who supposedly disrespected the Prophet deserved any punishment merely for drawing a sketch of him on a chalkboard for whatever reason...a simple word of caution by that female student...or any other student should have sufficed....but NOOOO Muslims have to be extreme when it comes to religion...but I also dont get the chasm of injustice being clearly shown here. Are we to assume the Civil Department and those who head it are on a higher footing and deserve more respect etc than the Prophet? Are we to assume that the punishment meted out to individuals who "cause trouble" to the Civil Department and those who head it should be enforced to the fullest extent of the law...but those that blasphemy the Prophet are dealt with leniently?

Should we assume that Bahrain authorities are quite happy to sit by and let a Bahraini Muslim woman, who had a solid reputation, deep respect from her community, and clearly has not broken any law what so ever.. be sent to jail merely for pointing out discrimination at the Civil Department...thus destroying her family life, her career, and her future prospects all because the head of the Civil Department didnt like something he read...but knows to be true?

One question. The MP's of Bahrain have made a mockery of Bahrains reputation as a tolerant and welcoming country. People are talking about leaving Bahrain because it no longer is the quiet oasis in the gulf it was known as before. How many more people will leave, Bahrainis included, once its made clear that jail is awaiting anyone that dares say a word against Ministry heads or anyone else that has a position of power?

I realize jail has always awaited those people who dared speak out...but at least it was hidden just a little bit better theres not even a semblance of attempt at keeping this injustice a secret.

How nice for Bahrain and all its inhabitants.

I hope justice will be served for Maryam al Sherooqi...telling the truth is incumbent upon all of us...even if its against ourselves and our families...last I heard Bahrain considered itself a Muslim country....I guess that only applies in regards to the fact that we have mosques and women wear abayas and hijab. Sweet!!


Nawal said...

That seems of course very extreme that your friend is in jail for so long while obviously an American would not be treated the same way. But what was that teacher trying to prove by being disrespectful to Muslims especially in a "muslim" country as you say. Was he aware that we do not make depictions of any prophets? Or was he just trying to be an ass about it?

coolred38 said...

Apparently this teacher was not quite aware that drawing a rendition was going to cause quite a stir...SHE was just ignorant...not being an ass. The ass in my opinion would be the student that made such a big friggin deal about it that this lady was sent to jail...for showing insensitivity...nothing more.

Muslims should calm down a bit...sometimes we can explain ourselves or our beliefs without calling in authorities and creating controversy...not everyone is "out to get us".

Chiara said...

It would be better to educate people, eg. the teacher before moving directly to punishment. Your friend's pen must be might for them to take such a "sword" to her. Incommensurate obviously.

coolred38 said...

Chiara...yes...her pen is very mighty. She frequently gets anonymous calls from people with an injustice festering that they want her to write about...confident in her abilities to get thier point across.

I find it ironic she is facing jail for nothing more than being critical towards a govt institution...meanwhile the Prime Minister just met with all the press around here claiming once again freedom of the press should never be hendered...Im curious if he is aware of my friends trial then?

Chiara said...

The cynic in me, based on awareness of other repressive states, wonders if he is not behind her trial.

I hope for the best for her. Canada has a number of refugees who were journalists in their home countries. They have difficulty functioning here unless they are fluent in English, though some work for their ethnic media. They are at least safer, and free from persecution.

Susie of Arabia said...

You would think that there would be more significant "crimes" they should be dealing with instead of coming down so hard on innocent people who are only trying to do their jobs... I remember reading your post about your friend months ago and I'm sorry she's still having to deal with all of that. And the other case reminds me of the grade school teacher who made world news for the outrage she caused for allowing the kids in her classroom to name a teddy bear Mohammed. People need to get a life and stop being offended at every little misstep someone innocently makes.

coolred38 said...

Chiara...your probably right about him....but it seems hypocrisy doesnt even try and hide anymore...on one hand he's meeting with the press...on the other there are several journalist awaiting trial for various articles written...nice!!

Susie...coming down on significant crimes never seems to cross anyones mind here. Bahrain ratified a law that says workers can not be transported in the backs of open trucks because of all the horrible accidents that happen daily. This was over a year ago...nobody cared...human life means nothing...workers were still transported like sheep in open trucks. Recently the law was declared to be "enforced" at last and over 50 trucks have been fined. I would venture to guess there are a hell of a lot more than 50 trucks driving around out there with open backs transporting men...and you discover quickly that its not the Bahraini owner that is fined for unsafe practices within his is the driver of the truck...who is only doing his job...and has no choice anyhow. Nice.

Yasemin said...

It makes you wonder just how honest of brokers they could be, if their own princess daughter was facing possible stoning, locked in her room for life, for marrying a Mormon. I often wonder what became of her.

Major crimes like rape probably get a slap on the wrist, the girl was probably just saying she was raped, when it was really consensual. Yeah. Does the country have lots of tribal leaders to decide things?

Oh Coolred, I really don't envy you and can't imagine day to day life. Sorry for being a stranger here, I feel for you everyday! Love you and the kids.

Reeshiez said...

Mariam Al-Shurooqi is a brave women and an example to us all. People like her who dare to speak out will one day make Bahrain a better country for us all. I am praying for Mariam and others like her. Unfortunately, the government's past record has been bleak in this regard. You only have to look at the arrests in the 1980s and the 1990s to see how repressive the Bahraini government can be. I think what happened is that when the new King came, he reformed many aspects of Bahrain's political system and gave its citizens more freedom. By doing that, he expected Bahrainis to be quiet and satisfied with their new found freedoms. Well what everyone must realize is that when you give people freedom they only want more. Bahrainis aren't going to be satisfied with a semi-democratic society. I think the government now feels that everyone is going too far and are worried that they can no longer control Bahrain's citizenry, which explains the recent clampdowns and new laws that are being passed. Well what they realize is that there is no turning back. Unlike the 1990s where a lot of people were scared to criticize the government, people now don't care and say whatever they think. I think they will keep saying whatever they think no matter how many people they throw in jail. I wish the Bahraini government would realize that criticism is good because it only makes a country better and stronger.

I am hopeful though. I hope that one day Bahrain will be the country that we all want it to be. I'm really happy to read about events such as the Spring of Culture for example - these are small changes but they help Bahrain become a better place. Of course, some days, when I read about the recent website ban by the government on one hand, and the stupid MPs who want to impose their beliefs on all Bahrainis on the other hand and then I wonder if I have any reason to be hopeful. Oh well.. what will happen will happen.

As for the post by Lisa above - There are no honor killings in Bahrain. I've lived there all my life and I have never heard of such a thing. Honor killings and stonings are not practiced by the royal family or any other Bahraini family for that matter. We are not a tribal society. Bahrainis mostly are descendents of merchants, farmers and fishermen. Some Bahrainis, including the royal family have bedouin roots which they are very proud of (there is a saying in Arabic - The origin of Arabness is bedouiness) but this does not mean that they are uncivilized as bedouins are portrayed to be. Many of them are poets, writers and artists and all are highly educated. The royal family were not going to stone or lock in for life. They were simply shocked that their 18 year old daughter ran away with a man that they do not know to another country. How would you feel if your 18 year old daughter ran away with a strange man to another country? I don't think that you, or anyone else for that matter, whether Arab or Western, Muslim or Christian or Athiest would be too happy with that. By the way, she's in Bahrain now and she's fine.

coolred38 said...

Lisa...from personal experience...rape, molestings, pedophilia etc...are never given the attention and punishment that it should in this country. That I do not understand. Victims apparently mean nothing to the Sharia Court.

Reesheiz...I agree totally with your comment. Once you give people a taste of freedom...they dont want to go back to the life they had without it. Bahraini's are slow to grab this opportunity with both hands and fight for it tooth and nail...if they dont find their desire to be free soon...the MP's and extremists of this country will drag them back down into the freedomless existence they had before. It will be much worse this time tho....cause they will have to live knowing what they are missing this time around.

Welcome to my blog