Letter: Bahrain's radical dissidents

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From Dr Omar Al-Hassan

Sir: The series of articles attacking Bahrain written by Robert Fisk (13-20 February) raised many contentious issues.

A recurrent theme is that the dissidents want "parliamentary democracy". It is naive to accept this as it stands because the true intention of many of the dissidents is to effect radical political change. The Islamic Front for the Liberation of Bahrain, for example, whose members are mentioned and quoted many times, have long opposed the Bahrain government and have the stated aim of its replacement with an extremist Islamic government along the lines of that in Iran, something that would prove unpopular to the majority of Bahrainis, as well as to the rest of the world.

It is worth noting that while a call for parliamentary democracy may sound unremarkable in the West, such a system of government has never formed part of the Gulf Arab tradition, and does not exist anywhere in the Arabian Peninsula.

A system which suits the West is not necessarily appropriate for the very different cultures of the Gulf, and it is a mistake for Westerners to assume that their own ways are automatically right for all others. There has been, and will continue to be, evolution in the political system in Bahrain, and certainly moves towards greater representation. However, these will not be made against a backdrop of instability and violence.

Yours faithfully,

Omar Al-Hassan

Chairman, Gulf Centre for

Strategic Studies Ltd

London, EC1