Counter-Terrorism: Playing The Christian Card In Arabia


October 3, 2012: In Bahrain, where the majority Shia continue to demonstrate and sometimes riot in an effort to take power from the Sunni monarchy, the government has decided to allow the local Christians to build the largest church in Arabia. This surprised some, except those who knew the history of the area. While Saudi Arabia (the largest nation on the Arabian Peninsula) forbids any non-Moslem religious facilities, the rest of the countries in Arabia are more tolerant. Bahrain is taking this to another level by doing what many Moslem rulers over the centuries have done. When faced with a fractious and violent Moslem population, religious minorities were enlisted to serve the government. The fact that these minorities were disliked by most people in the kingdom ensured loyalty to the king, who rewarded his trusted non-Moslem subjects, sometimes by hiring them as bodyguards. The Turks, who were Sunni Moslems, took advantage of this for centuries. The local Christians, Jews, and other minorities knew that the Turks took care of loyal minorities and provided jobs as soldiers or government officials. The downside of this is that when the Turks departed after 1918, the locals turned on these minorities. Thus it was no surprise that Christians, Jews, and others flocked to sign up to fight for the British and French colonial governments that took over from the Turks. But this colonial period lasted less than two decades and the minorities again found themselves at risk. But as the Arab world once more found itself led by dictators, the religious and ethnic minorities were usually ready to side with the big man and staff the secret police and special military units. This again led to painful repercussions when the tyrannical benefactor was ousted (as happened in Iraq in 2003).

In Bahrain the Christians are largely imported from South Asia and other parts of the world to do jobs Bahrainis do not or cannot do. More importantly, these many Christians are grateful for the jobs and even more appreciative when allowed to build churches. The Sunni monarchy is using this appreciation to stay in power. That's because 40 years ago Bahrain's population was 30 percent Sunni and 70 percent Shia. With all the imported workers, it's now 25 percent Sunni, 45 percent Shia, and 30 percent Christian and others (mainly Hindus and Sikhs). Over the last few decades the government has discouraged Shia immigration and encouraged Sunnis and non-Moslems. Now the Shia may be rioting in the streets but they are no longer the majority. Given the harsh treatment Shia in Iran and Lebanon give to non-Moslems, the Bahraini government can expect support from its Christian subjects.


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