Sheikh (“Shake” as James Zogby says) Mouhamed Bin-Mubarak Al-Khalifa, the Foreign Minister of Bahrain (which James Zogby describes as “a beacon of democratic reform”), said the British presence in Bahrain in the 19th and 20th Centuries was not “colonialism”, and the British were there for the “protection” and “security” of Bahrain.
His description of the relationship between Bahrain (his family really) and the British Empire at the time came during a talk, hilariously described as a “lecture”, at an event hosted by the Bahrain Historical and Archaeological Society (BHAS).
Undoubtedly, the British politicians who listened to the Sheik’s “lecture” received his comments on British colonialism with amusement, and the same disbelief that characterized Ariel Sharon’s reaction to George Bush Jr’s description of him as a “man of peace.”
The absurdities that evening at the Bahrain National Museum, the venue for the event, did not end with the Sheikh’s remark about British colonialism, or the description of his talk as a “lecture.” In recognition of his “cultural role” and “diplomatic achievements”, The BHAS bestowed upon “His Highness” an honorary membership. The President of the BHAS rose to the occasion and described this clown as a “distinct personality…cultural pioneer…someone with an open mind toward diplomacy, with a political vision that secured Bahrain’s place on the world map.”
Needless to say Arabs, just like the rest of the world, view the British presence in Bahrain, and the region at the time as a colonial power. The “lecturer” that evening may have confused the “protection” and “security” of his family, not to mention the establishment of its rule, with the protection and security of Bahrain.
The dominant Western power may have changed since the heyday of the British Empire, but the ruling dynasties in Bahrain, and the Arab Gulf States, today maintain a similar relationship with the US. The similarity between these client-regimes’ relationship with the previous British Empire, and the US today must be on the minds of these rulers, and we wouldn’t be surprised if their current day reality as pliant tools of the West was on the mind of this “political visionary” when he uttered his ridiculous remarks.
It should also be noted that in the Arab world such events as the one where these remarks were made are viewed as nothing more than state-organized spectacles.
This event and article was brought to our attention by one of our readers. Thanks Mahmood.