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Bahrain king: ‘Terrorism has no religion’

Hamad dismisses violence as a means to protest against government

Gulf News

Manama: Terrorism has no religion and it has the same ugly face around the world, King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa has said.

“In Bahrain and in Boston, terrorists used pressure cookers to assemble their homemade bombs, which killed innocent people and injured hundreds,” he said.

“It is fine to disagree with the government and to want to change the law. There is only one way. It is not violence; it is dialogue. It is not intimidation; it is accommodation. Some small groups want to impose their will on everyone else by using violence. They have the advantage of being able to plan their sabotage anywhere”, King Hamad said in an interview with Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard.

The king said that he himself wanted change.

“We all want change for the best of Bahrain. I myself want change, maybe more than anyone”, he said, adding that “things are moving in the right direction” in Bahrain.

“We just had a very successful Formula One event. Bahrainis have benefited immensely through this economic festival from additional tourism and spectators. Our economic development must continue for the prosperity of Bahrainis, and events such as Formula One add great economic value to the country,” he said.

However, he cautioned against taking for granted information posted online on Bahrain that suggests that “not much has changed”.

“I do not get my information from Twitter only and neither should you. My own information from law enforcement sources confirms that the number of rioters is decreasing. These new media tools are interesting and are changing the landscape of media, but you always have to keep in mind that, depending on who the person is, their messages are one-sided or even not true,” he told the interviewer.

King Hamad rejected claims by some organizations in the West that no real change had occurred following the publication of a report by an international fact-finding panel he established in June 2011.

“That is not true. There had been reforms in various sectors, like police and the juridical system. This is an ongoing process. Also, during the first dialogue that took place after the report was issued, 20 constitutional articles were amended based on the consensus of the different parties so that the new Cabinet is required to win the vote of confidence of the elected Council based on their programme. These reforms ensure that the formation of the Cabinet and the plan reflect the will of the people. We are the first country in the Gulf that allowed this major shift of power to the people,” he said.

The monarch who assumed power in 1999 upon the death of his father Shaikh Eisa Bin Salman Al Khalifa, rejected claims that “some local journalists and activists are said to be in jail for expressing their opinions.”

“No one in Bahrain is prosecuted for their opinions. That is everyone’s right. But people who are filmed while inciting others to take up arms, to affront the police, and to demonstrate in sensitive areas without a permit should not say that they are pursued for their opinions. This cannot be tolerated in any country. They are breaking the law,” he said.

King Hamad insisted that national dialogue was the way forward for the country. A new round was launched on February 10 in a bid to help break the political deadlock.

“This dialogue is a continuation of the first one we had several months ago. All the representatives of all parties of Bahraini society are engaging in a discussion and agreeing to the agenda of reforms. I am waiting with a lot of patience to hear their ideas, because national dialogue is the only right way for Bahrain and for anyone who says he or she has the interest of all Bahrainis in mind,” he said.