how literate is your MP
This being the world’s most politically correct island, it is idyllically refreshing to come across someone who bares it all in plainspoken, spur of the moment kind of talk on a clouding issue of the day. Especially on a question regarded by many of sectarian bent as the biggest issue facing this small country: the economic inequality of the Shia of the land and the systemic discrimination they face in public sector employment. From airport security gates to the passport office counters to the hospital corridors, there exists such a blunt sectarian division of labour, you could easily pin point the sectarian affiliation of a person -with a 98.4% accuracy- by simply asking where he works, if any.
Our respected but never elected government had never even tried to acknowledge this of course. (Last year, it emphatically told a UN panel that no form of racial, ethnic or sectarian discrimination exists in the country). And the tendency among political and business elites is to skate around the issue or just offer niceties and silky talk about it. The Shia themselves, ever the most politically correct and sensibility conscious creatures of the animal kingdom, hardly broach the issue in an open and straight manner. (One notable exception is a research done by the -naturally dissolved- Bahrain Centre for Human Rights). So, when someone of note diverges from the fold to freely speak his mind on the grave issue, we insignificant others have to pause and take note.
That courageous soul was the honourable Yousif Al-Harmi. (For those not au courant with our nascent democracy, let me hasten to say he is an MP of the “Chamber of Deputies”, one of many who won their seats thanks to a largely boycotting constituency). He told it as it is to yesterday’s Al-Waqt newspaper. He has the floor:
The honourable MP: The Shia view themselves as the oppressed ones, as if the Sunnis live pampered with luxuries. By this erroneous belief, they are isolating themselves from the country.
The unemployment issue has been politicized. I was the official in the Ministry of Labour overseeing Bahrainization at the time, and I noticed how the overwhelming majority of applicants to private sector jobs were Shia, while the Sunni applicants were few. But this is a result of the Shia students dropping out of primary school. They drop out of intermediate and high school as well. The Sunnis go on to finish school. They get university degrees. And they get good public sector jobs.
Having too many children is a factor too. People have to understand that bringing many children carry financial burdens with it. More children mean lower income.
Thus, if the Shia find themselves unemployed, underemployed or altogether at the bottom of the economic heap, it is undeniably their fault. They seem to lack the cultural and educational wherewithal, or something as basic as self discipline in the classroom or the bedroom, to succeed. That might qualify as a racist insult in a country like the
One is tempted to dismiss the above as a largely ignorant if not purely mental remark, but unfortunately it is far from being an isolated sentiment. A couple of back page columnists have for long harped on the same tune. And royals and big merchants alike have whispered the same line of comment to visiting foreign journalists. It leaves you to ponder, do our esteemed brethrens have access to undisclosed census data showing the Shia of the land with way higher dropout rates and fecundity levels than their Sunni compatriots? Are these guys finely tuned to some other anecdotal evidence we are not privy to? Could the sheer number of Shia be explained by the fact they predated everyone else on the island and were the quasi totality of its inhabitants until two centuries ago?