Minister defends Bahrain’s cultural fest
Manama, April 4, 2012
Bahrain’s Culture Minister yesterday (April 3) hit back after Islamist MPs accused artists taking part in the country's biggest cultural festival of being sexually provocative.
Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa blamed MPs of taking the country backwards after they showed images of some Spring of Culture performances during their weekly session, claiming they promoted homosexuality, said a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
'It is people like you who are taking us backwards and those pictures are of an event six years ago, which we dealt with and that chapter has been closed,' she said during the session.
Parliament was then suspended after one MP hurled insults at the minister, while others demanded her resignation.
On her way out she said she expected nothing less from Bahrain's MPs, since they were simply not 'man enough'.
She branded protesters at one rally, in which children were allegedly used to hurl stones at concertgoers on Monday, as 'mercenaries'.
It happened near the Shaikh Ebrahim bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Centre for Culture and Research, in Muharraq, which is close to a mosque.
Worshippers had demonstrated against the Spring of Culture festival last month, prompting a heavy police presence in the area near the Bin Nasr Mosque.
The mosque's clergyman reportedly hosted a seminar 'Spring of Faith', during which he allegedly claimed there had been violations of Islamic and traditional values and incited worshippers to take action to stop 'the cultural nuisance'.
However, the minister said it was Islamic groups that were distorting the perceptions of Bahraini children.
'It is your groups that have deployed mercenary children to stand in the name of the Spring of Faith,' she said.
However, her words caused fireworks as she appeared in parliament yesterday - and sparked anger among Islamist MPs who want the festival to be scrapped.
They accused the minister of organising sexually provocative events, images of which were deemed too erotic to be shown in parliament after being flashed up on the chamber's TV screens.
However, Shaikha Mai said the images were from an event that happened six years ago that caused the festival to be dubbed the 'Spring of Sex'.
'It is people like you who are taking us backwards and those pictures are of an event six years ago, which we dealt with and that chapter has been closed,' she said.
The images were highlighted by MP Mohammed Al Ammadi and featured intimate performances that he claimed were sexual.
However, this prompted outrage among his fellow members - with one MP shouting 'remove the sinful pictures' and 'down with spring of silliness'.
The Spring of Culture has this year featured music industry legends, including Andrea Bocceli and Julio Iglesias. However, one MP argued the event should focus more on Arab and Islamic culture.
'We hoped that Shaikha Mai would change the meaning of culture and introduce something that reflects our tradition and heritage over her tenure as minister,' said Al Ammadi, a member of the Al Menbar Bloc affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.
'This didn't happen and instead the Spring of Culture promotes homosexuality and sleaze through what is called cultural shows, but they are far from that.
'I have never seen the ministry organise serious cultural conferences and exhibitions that promote Arab and Islamic culture and instead we see alien cultures being brought in and promoted instead,' Al Ammadi added.
He also questioned how the ministry was able to generate sponsorship to pay for Spring of Culture events.
'We die to get sponsors to help us with community projects and the minister managed to get BD1 million ($2.65 million) to stage two concerts by Spanish artist Julio Iglesias,' Al Ammadi said.
Parliament descended into chaos after insults were exchanged between MPs and the minister, resulting in the suspension of the session.
MPs demanded Shaikha Mai leave the chamber and pledged not to show up to parliament until she has been removed from the Cabinet. – TradeArabia News Service