Interview With Leader of Bahrain’s Al-Menbar Society
|Sunday, March 4,2007 00:00|
|By Al Saeed Abbadi, Ikhwanweb|
The latest parliamentary elections in Bahrain reflected the strength of the Islamic movement in this gulf country after it won a majority; the coalition of Al-Menbar National Islamic Society with the Salafist Al Asala Islamic Society managed to garner 12 parliamentary seats.
The Bahraini scene has a special privacy due to the nature of the relation between the Sunnis and the Shiites.
Ikhwanweb has held this interview with Dr. Salah Ali, the chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood branch in Bahrain, Islamic national Al-Menbar Society and chief of its parliamentary bloc; he is also the second deputy speaker of the Bahraini House.
Give us a bird’s eye view of the society, how it was founded, its most important targets and its ideological foundations?
Al-Menbar National Islamic Society is a political society which has an Islamic source of authority; regarding its foundation, this started after the Bahraini king carried out huge reforms, including freedoms and established pillars for a new institutional democratic state, prompting citizens to initiate serious national actions aiming at supporting the welfare, dignity, security and stability of the homeland, based on the Islamic Arab identity of our country and taking into consideration its national unity.
Due to the fact that an organized and popular participation through practicing the right of holding gatherings in the forms of societies and parties can be more effecting in propagating for ideas of development, calling for rights and establishing good manners in a society ruled by wise and conscious leaders, we formed this society: Al-Menbar National Islamic Society to give the Islamic voice its due stance and right in participating in the national work and in presenting solutions which are derived from purely Islamic traditions, as part of other views that had and are still having their positions in the national scene.
We are interested in holding a consultative and democrat atmosphere inside Al-Menbar. Because it is meaningless to call for establishing a consultative healthy society through dictatorial organizations and societies. Therefore, Al-Menbar National Islamic Society has done its best through all its measures and bills inside and outside the House of Representatives so as to be open and to exclude the narrow partisanship and sectarianism, and to believe in a continuous dialogue with the other, and give membership to every one believing in the broad Islamic project for improving the Bahraini society.
Al-Menbar National Islamic Society is working for achieving many targets, topped by:
-Reinforcing the constants of the Islamic and Arab identity of the Bahraini society as prescribed by the constitution
-Introduce Islamic attitudes in all aspects of life to the constitution and the charter
-Preserving rights prescribed by the constitution and the charter in the field of public freedoms, human rights, consultation and democracy and developing them
-Activating a popular participation in drafting the state’s future and development plans
-Achieving social peace for individuals and the society
-Reinforcing the pillars of national unity in the country
-Developing the economic system in the country
-Providing requirements for a decent life for the Bahraini citizens
-Fighting financial and administrative corruption and wasting public property.
-Founding social, educational and media bodies in the country on foundations that include the Islamic identity and keeping up with the cultural progress.
-Preserving the structure and stability of the Bahraini family.
What is the position of Al Menbar in the Bahraini political scene?
Al-Menbar Islamic society is one of the first the societies to be formed after launching the reformist project of the Bahraini King; it is one of the biggest political societies in Bahrain; its parliamentary bloc was the first bloc to be formed during the past House; the society is enjoying a broad grassroots support base in the Bahraini society; this is actually attributed to several reasons:
-Al Menbar’s ideology is derived from the Islamic traditions.
-It is it is the political wing of the Islah (Reform) society which is deep rooted in the Bahraini history.
-It has been carrying out, since it was founded, many and big charitable and social works
-Al Menbar has many offices and branches which are dotted all over The Kingdom of Bahrain
-Its parliamentary and Municipal blocs made many achievements in the political and public life, achievements which were highly appreciated by the citizens (the parliamentary bloc lodged a third of the House of Representatives’ activities, including suggestions, written statements, bill laws).
-The society has many cadres who are well-trained and efficient in various fields.
The results of the latest parliamentary and Municipal elections prove this fact: that Al Menbar has a strong and growing grassroots support. Al-Menbar National Islamic Society managed to garner seven seats out of eight candidates whom it fielded; all its candidates, three, won the Municipal elections. Also, the leader of Al-Menbar parliamentary bloc was elected deputy speaker of the Bahraini Parliament; Abdul Rahman Al Hassan, Al-Menbar’s member, was elected chairman of a municipality in the kingdom, the municipality of the middle governorate.
Outline the map of the Bahraini political powers and what is the position of Al-Menbar inside it?
In fact, the Bahraini political map is marked by multiple and diverse political powers; these powers and societies have various trends and ideologies, topped by the Islamic (Sunni and Shiite) trends. The most prominent of these societies are Al-Menbar National Islamic Society, the Salafist Al Asala Islamic Society and Al-Shura (consultative) society and Al-Wasat society (Sunni). As for the Shiite societies, they are topped by Al-Wefaq Society; there are also Leftist and secular trends but they do not have a grassroots support. This was clearly proved during the last elections; these leftist and secular trends are represented by Waed society and the progressive national platform. As for our society’s position, we, in Al-Menbar National Islamic Society, extend our hands to all and we cooperate according to a common ground based on the principle of citizenship and partnership, not competition, for the good of this great homeland; also Al-Menbar adopts the principle of dialogue among all groups and powers of the society because dialogue is one of the pillars of democracy.
Is there any relation or coordination between you and the Shiites in Bahrain; what ’s the weight of the Bahraini Shiite movement?; why has the Shiites achieved such a landslide win in the latest elections?
Our relation with the Shiite sect is very distinguished and it is dating back to many years; the most prominent and famous meeting between us was the meeting between sheikh Eissa Bin Khalif, the chairman of Islah (Reform) society and lat Sheikh Abdul Amir Al Gamri, in the building of the Islah society; we are maintaining our meetings and contacts with them because they are brothers in religion, homeland and humanity; what I’d like to explain is that we are dealing equally with all people because we are representatives of all people, not only the Sunni sect; also, we, MPs for the Islamic Al-Menbar, discussed many issues related to our Shiite brothers in the last House, and we provided services for them because we are representatives for all people; we took part in several activities; we also don’t mind coordinating with them in any thing that may serve the homeland and citizens; this was clear in the latest meetings with leaders and MPs for Al-Wefaq Society to coordinate in the House activities so that parliament can do its specific role perfectly; concerning the election results of our brothers in Al-Wefaq Society, they were expected because Al-Wefaq Society has a presence and a strong presence and grassroots support.
Does what is happening in Iraq have an impact on the relations with the Bahraini Shiites?
I think that the situation in Iraq is totally different from the situation in Bahrain. Iraq is an occupied country which has fallen as a prey to a number of regional powers; also, the occupiers are making many schemes to drive a wedge between the two sects in Iraq; the situation in Bahrain is totally different; there is a stability and coexistence between both sects since The Kingdom of Bahrain emerged; we consider any aggression against the rights of any sect in Bahrain as a red line that must not be crossed; we are one fabric in one country that has the interests; we are in a single ship; if it sinks, all will die; therefore, every one has the right of citizenship and partnership. Al-Menbar National Islamic Society says that the national feeling must always be given a priority and that the citizen must be dealt with as a citizen regardless of his, sect, religion or ideology; Al-Menbar National Islamic Society adopts the principle of citizenship; all Bahraini people are citizens who have equal rights and duties; when we lodge bill laws, they aren’t lodged out of a sectarian basis; we discuss these bill laws with all political trends; the Shiites are our brothers and are an integral part of this country; we have held many meetings with leaders of Shiite societies; there is always a mutual respect between us and our Shiite fellow citizens; Islah (Reform) society had a long history of bringing closer both Sunnis and Shiites: what I want to say that out of the interest of our country, we must cooperate to survive; we strongly reject any attempts to support any sectarian tension or marginalize any sect; the Sunni and Shiite sects are belonging to Bahrain will remain coexisting with each other in harmony and love.
What are the most important priorities of Al-Menabr in next stage and the current parliament; does it have a complete view for reform in Bahrain?
We have an integrated program that encompasses our view towards reform in the kingdom and will implement it during the coming period; regarding its most important features, our program for reform includes:
-improving living conditions
-Educational (pre- university and university) reform
-Giving loans to citizens
-The file of women and children
-The youth and sports file (Al-Menbar National Islamic Society will give this file more care because the number of youth is on the increase and they needs more care and the care)
-The environmental issues, specially that Bahrain is an island and it has a huge marine environment that needs care
-The constitutional file and demanding introducing amendments to some articles in the constitution, we have pointed out that Al-Menbar’s main target is how increase the legislative powers inside parliament; we try to increase these legislative powers through the constitutional file.
-Fight corruption (a sensitive file), including its three kinds: financial corruption, administrative corruption, and moral corruption; Al-Menbar National Islamic Society has played a good role in this field during the past parliament and it seeks to complete this in order to form a corruption free society.
What is your assessment to the coalition with the Salafist Al Asala Islamic Society in the last elections; does this express an MB-Salafist closeness or is it just an election tactic?
The electoral coalition with the Salafist Al Asala Islamic Society led to a landslide victory for this unified slate; this coalition was sealed due to public demands; the public opinion demanded a coalition and coordination between Al-Menbar National Islamic Society and the Salafist Al Asala Islamic Society in these elections; also Al-Menbar National Islamic Society and the Salafist Al Asala Islamic Society have several common targets.