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Bahrain artists back minister in festival row

Manama, April 5, 2012

Artists in Bahrain yesterday (April 4) came out in support of a government minister who this week faced off against Islamist MPs demanding the cancellation of the country's largest cultural event.

Meanwhile, MPs not affiliated with Islamist groups said they did not want to see Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa lose her job, said a report in our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News (GDN).

One artist described her as a 'role model' and highlighted her efforts in getting Manama named Capital of Arab Culture for this year.

Many turned to social networking sites to back her after MPs demanded her sacking on Tuesday, when parliament's weekly session was brought to an early finish.

It followed a standoff between Shaikha Mai and Islamist MPs who claimed the Spring of Culture festival, which has this year attracted big names including Julio Iglesias and Andrea Bocelli, was sexually explicit and promoted homosexuality.

Shaikha Mai had condemned the actions of those who protested outside festival events in Muharraq, saying stones had even been thrown at concert-goers on Monday.

She also accused MPs opposed to the event of taking the country backwards.

'There is no doubt she has done a commendable job as Culture Minister,' Bahraini architect and artist Mossa Silwadi told the GDN yesterday.

'She is a role model full of life and inspiration. I think the regional stress is affecting everyone, including those in parliament.'

MPs had called for Shaikha Mai to leave Tuesday's session, but were even more incensed by a comment she made as she left - saying: 'I cannot blame you (for your actions) because there is no single MP man enough here.'

They later threatened not to show up at parliamentary meetings until she is replaced, warning they could pass a vote of no confidence in her if she stays.

'She did not mean it and said it in the heat of the moment,' said Silwadi, who is originally from Palestine. 'If MPs are serious why can't they go to the hotels and stop all the illegal activities going on there? Attending these concerts or activities is a matter of choice as nobody is forcing anyone to be present.'

Renowned Bahraini digital artist Khalid Al Muharraqi said Bahrain needed events like the Spring of Culture.

'She (Shaikha Mai) has been involved in cultural activities for many years,' he said. 'Everyone should look on the good side. There is not much to do in Bahrain and if there is proper entertainment that involves international talent, there is nothing wrong in that. The idea for more activities is to change the mood.'

He also highlighted the work she has done promoting culture in Bahrain.

'She should not be underestimated for her good deeds as she changed lots of things on the cultural front,' he said. 'Everybody has a perfect and imperfect side. She could have done things which did not make some people happy, but one cannot satisfy everybody.'

Meanwhile, president of parliament's Independent Bloc Abdulla Al Dossary said the minister did not deserve to be sacked.

'We cannot lose her as a minister and do not want more problems in Bahrain,' he said yesterday. 'She could apologise to MPs in parliament and I think the issue would be resolved.'

He also called for more to be done to promote local talent.

However, female MP Dr Somaya Al Jowder said she had personally attended several events organised by the Culture Ministry. She said those opposed to the Spring of Culture did not understand tickets for events staged for free in Bahrain would be eagerly snapped up by a paying public elsewhere.

'Our people do not understand that in Western countries people have to purchase tickets for such international events, which is not the case in Bahrain as the events are free or the concert tickets are cheap,' she said.

However, she added a request to turn down mosque loudspeakers had upset some.

'From the beginning MPs were against the Spring of Culture festival and this year they did not want it to be held because of the situation in Syria,' she said.'Secondly, the ministry asked imams in Muharraq to tone down loudspeakers as it was affecting those attending these events.'

Islamists and opponents of the festival have staged protests in Muharraq since last month.

A spokesman for the protest organisers said people were opposed to 'singing and dancing'.

'We are not against any cultural lecture, but (do) not (want) singing and dancing,' said the spokesman. 'They sent two policemen to tell the mosque imam not to switch on the speakers for the call to prayer, but do not even realise that we finish our evening prayers by 7.30pm - while the concerts start after 8.30pm.'

However, he claimed those involved in the protests had never damaged property or caused injury. 'In all our protests no damage was caused to any building or individual,' he said. – TradeArabia News Service




Tags: Bahrain | artists | MP | Cultural Festival | Spring of Culture |

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