New unity society ‘open to all Bahrainis’
Manama, June 21, 2011
A major new society that could dramatically change Bahrain's political landscape is open to everyone, according to its leader.
The National Unity Assembly (NUA), formerly National Unity Gathering, has attracted members from across the political spectrum, including the Jewish and Christian communities, said chairman Dr Shaikh Abdullatif Mahmood Al Mahmood.
"We are not an Islamist or secular society," he told our sister newspaper the Gulf Daily Newswhen asked about its supporters from the Al Menbar and Al Asala Islamist political societies.
"But, yes, we do have some members from these groups who believe in our work and ideology. National Unity Assembly represents all citizens in the country."
Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood said the group also backed women's rights.
"Like I said our society represents the nation and its citizens," he said during an exclusive interview at Islamic Society headquarters, Arad. "Women are an important part of the movement and we have supported their rights by backing the Family Law and other legislations."
NUA has received an invitation to take part in the National Dialogue, which begins at Isa Cultural Centre in Juffair on July 1.
Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood said it would be an open platform for opposition groups to raise their demands without fear.
"All demands by political societies and groups can be discussed. Any files can be opened and there is nothing to hide," he said.
Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood said the time was right for all political factions to sit round the table.
"Let the opposition groups and our society members clash on the negotiation table.
"There is nothing wrong as this is the aim of the dialogue for groups to reach consensus. There is no red line and the floor is open to all members."
Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood also backed the appointment of parliament chairman Khalifa Al Dhahrani to head the national dialogue.
"We believe in the parliament chairman as he is well versed in the political system and would certainly relate to some of our key issues," he said.
"This could be constitutional amendments, parliament with more power and improving living conditions of citizens, among other key issues."
Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood said he expected Al Wefaq National Islamic Society members to raise the issue of releasing members and opposition figures detained during the crackdown on anti-government protesters.
"See we know they (Al Wefaq) will voice their concern regarding this issue, but societies could nominate other representatives on their behalf to engage in the national dialogue," he said. "We could reach an agreement gradually, but the first step is to take part."
NUA came into limelight in February when it organised a rally at Al Fateh Islamic Centre (Grand Mosque) in Juffair in support of the leadership, attended by an estimated 300,000 people.
Since then the society has held several gatherings attended by tens of thousands of supporters.
It also submitted papers to formally register as a political society with the Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowments Ministry earlier this month.
A PhD holder in religious studies, Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood was signatory to popular petitions in 1994 and 1996 calling for restoration of parliament and the suspended constitution.
"I am proud to call myself a strong Muslim against sectarianism, who believes in love and peace," he said. "I was the first person to sign the petitions after the late Shaikh Abdul Amir Al Jamri.”
"I always fought for reforms and believe in the best for my country. I have always been away from limelight and if I feel now there is a good leader, I would hand over my role to him," he said.
Once banned from delivering Friday sermons in the 1990s and expelled from his job for demanding reforms, Dr Shaikh Al Mahmood said he realised it was time for him to come forward and highlight shortcomings of the government during unrest.
"I have to say this but ministers and senior government officials are inefficient and failed to do their duties," he said. "This has obviously reflected in the ground results. It's a failure in short. Even now one can see the government is sleeping, with all these well-planned media attacks portraying a bad image of the country. They should not keep quiet about any mistakes whether big or small during this period."
He earlier said Bahrain's political unrest could have been avoided if ministers had acted sooner to weed out corruption and nepotism.
In a speech, entitled The State Failed to Assume its Responsibility Fully, he alleged that appointments were often based on "origin, kinship and fake allegiance to senior officials rather than competence, integrity and management ability".
However, despite the failures, he said violence was not the answer. "What happened during the height of unrest was unacceptable - the general strike by workers and teachers, Salmaniya Medical Complex used as co-ordination centre for protesters, attacks in the Bahrain University campus and killing of foreign workers."
He said people had been afraid of moving around because of the deteriorating security situation. "It was a big plan for an attempted coup that failed and the plot was exposed. There is no denying about Iran's interference as large number of their followers wanted to turn the kingdom into a Shi'ite state similar to the Islamic Republic."
He expressed regret at the deaths of protesters during unrest and called for an investigation to reveal and hold those responsible to account. "We condemn such attacks and killings during the political unrest and call for transparent investigations," he said.
"I also want to send a message to the young to leave personal issues behind and work for national interest at this critical juncture our country is facing. It is their responsibility as they are future citizens,” he added. – TradeArabia News Service