Thursday, March 03, 2005موقع الكتروني يهز العرش الملكي). At first I thought this may have been a bit of an over-statement. However, when you look at the charges posited against the Bahrainonline managers of defaming the royal entity, inciting hatred and destabilizing national security, the charges in themselves render support for the above statement! The nature of these charges would lead you to think that Abdulemam and co. are accused of some sort of coup de'etat or armed warfare. No, these charges are referring to the power of the internet in spreading the WORD. This then also says two things, either the forum is very powerful or the throne is very weak. Dare I say it, does the King feel threatened by a few nerds behind a computer screen?
This leads one to ponder the meaning of a constitutional monarchy that Bahrain is supposed to be. Obviously there are two sides to this term "constitution" and "monarch". I view the entire political conflict that is going on at the moment as the lack of a pragmatic definition of both of these terms. We know what they mean in theory, but in practice, questions remain, what constitution- 1973 or 2002? What is the role of the monarch? A monarch is not supposed to govern and the ruling family shouldn't hold any seats in government. The constitution states that the King is "a venerable being that cannot be questioned" (Section 33, 2002 constitution "أن الملك رأس الدولة والممثل الأسمى لها ،ذاته مصونة لا تمس وهو الحامي الأمين للدين والوطن " ) can exercise his powers through his ministers, hence the King also has executive powers. Holding these ministers accountable would then amount to defaming the royal entity.
The charge of defaming the royal entity should NOT be taken lightly in this case. This is an admittance by the "establishment" itself that it regards a certain section of its nation (assuming popular support for those arrested) as defaming its monarch- the sacred cow. Splashing this all over the local and international media does not bode well for the King and his reputation, and is an acknowledgment of his loss of popularity among the people since the national referendum - not something you want to publicize.
So why prosecute on the charge of defaming the royal entity and focusing on the criticisms made against the King on the forum when the other 4 charges may have sufficed? Is it to send a strong message to Bahrainis that draws a red line at criticizing the King and entrenching the notion of a monarchial sacred cow in the psyche of the populace and the unconditional obedience of the people? Are the three men paying the price of this message and being used as scapegoats for setting this precedent? Winds of change referred to the Platonian concept "Guardianship" that this whole debacle reeks of.
Yes freedom of expression and human rights are important, but these are by-products of a democratic system.
I believe these arrests, the bitch-fighting between the authorities and the political societies, and the Khawaja affairs are attempts both by the Opposition and the government/King/Royal family in defining the meaning of a constitutional monarchy and reconciling each parties political definition of it. The important question is, is anyone learning any lessons from this? Is this a vicious circle? Are we getting anywhere?