Bahrain is one of the most forward looking Arab nation in the Middle East. It is currently the only Arab nation that allows non-Muslims to become full citizens and it has a progressive record vis a vis women's rights.
As Exhibit A, take the example of her Excellency Houda Nonoo, who is a Bahraini of Iraqi-Jewish extraction and serves as the Bahraini ambassador to the United States and Canada. She is the first Jewish woman to serve as an ambassador from any Arab country. She comes from a political family in Bahrain. (Here's a good interview with her in The Jewish Chronicle.)
Ms. Nonoo will be coming to visit Claremont McKenna on November 18th. She will be giving a talk in Pickford entitled, "Bahrain: The Pearl of the Gulf." Undeniably, she'll be talking up Bahrain, the country she represents to the United States and Canada.
But, lest we repeat the silliness of the time when the Ambassador to Syria came to the Athenaeum, I think it is only fair to ask some questions of the representative of the government of Bahrain.
Some quick questions for the Ambassador. Out of fairness to the Ambassador, I have only picked issues that she could help settle since she became an ambassador in May, 2008.
- Why does Bahrain refuse to acknowledge Israel's right to exist? More recently, why does the lower house of Bahrain's parliament believe it OK to ban its citizens from having any relations with Israel? Why is it willing to establish diplomatic ties with the human rights abusing regime of Burman?
- Why did Bahrain feel it was appropriate to charge a U.S. lecturer with "insulting Mohammed"? Does Bahrain believe in academic freedom?
- Why does Bahrain continue to imprison people for kissing in public? Why did that woman warrant a sentence of 20 days in prison?
- How does she feel about the increased Iranian rhetoric that suggests Bahrain isn't really independent, but a rogue province of Iran? Most recently, Iranian authorities have suggested seating Bahraini representatives in the Iranian parliament and categorizing Ahmadinejad's trips to the island nation as provincial trips. Iranian television has featured interviews with Bahraini Shi'a predicting revolution within a year. Bahrain cut off oil imports from Iran. (To be fair, Bahrain will restart gas import talks with Iran, but that development is still very new and strained.) Rumors had it that Bahrain was going to ban Iranians from entering Bahrain, but it turns out that this isn't the case. Still you have to wonder about a government that tries to ban Israelis, who have no designs on Bahraini sovereignty, and one that continues to have good relations with Iran, despite its suggestions that Bahrain is really a part of Iran.