Manama: Bahrain is seeking clarifications over a “false equivalence” in President Barack Obama’s speech at the 68th session of the General Assembly that equated Bahrain with Syria and Iraq in sectarian conflicts. Ghanim Al Buainain, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, received US Ambassador to Bahrain Thomas Krajeski and sought clarification on the reference to Bahrain in the US President’s speech, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported. Krajeski said that he would convey the request to the US Administration.

In his speech, Obama referred to “sectarian tensions that continue to surface in places like Iraq, Syria and Bahrain.” However, Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa, the foreign minister, rejected the reference. “The climate in the country today bares no equivalence to the sectarian conflicts occurring in Syria and Iraq,” Shaikh Khalid said. “What is occurring in Bahrain today is a concerted effort by terrorist extremist groups to target security personnel and expatriates with the intent of spreading fear and division within Bahrain’s society, as well as targeting Bahrain’s national economy and development.

The government of Bahrain responds to these efforts within the rule of law that protects the rights of all,” he said from New York where he is attending the UN general session. The minister insisted that Bahrain, throughout its long history, “has fostered a culture of tolerance, moderation and co-existence between the various religious and ethnic communities that constitute its society.” Alice Samaan, Bahrain’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, dismissed Obama’s reference to sectarian conflicts in the country.

Alice, a Christian who made regional history by becoming the first woman in the Middle East to chair a parliament session in April 2005, said in her statement from London that Bahrain was a tolerant and moderate country where the various religious and ethnic communities of the local society lived together in peaceful co-existence.

In Washington, Houda Nonoo, the first Jewish ambassador from the Arab world in the US, said that she was “disappointed to hear President Obama compare the situation in Bahrain to that of the current situation in Iraq and the unfolding tragedies in Syria.” “Notwithstanding the efforts of some groups to reframe what is at the core a political debate, Bahrain’s government has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to resolve differences within its society peacefully through dialogue and without preconditions,” the ambassador wrote on her official blog.

“The president’s statement does not reflect Bahrain’s well known history as a progressive outpost in the Middle East and the progress we have made in responding to the events of February and March 2011.”

Houda wrote that “over its history, Bahrain has provided unparalleled opportunities to its citizens regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.” “This is not a well-worn public relations cliché, but the reality that thousands of Bahrainis live every day. In no other county in the Middle East is my story — that of a Jewish woman who rose on her merits to the highest levels of civil society — even possible. I have the privilege of serving my country precisely because Bahrain is a place where hard work and ingenuity provide an equality of opportunity.

“At the same time, Bahrain’s programme of reform is not complete and we remain committed to making Bahrain a better place for all its citizens. I serve with a number of outstanding public servants committed to this noble goal, and we should not allow a violent, vocal minority to reverse the social, economic and political progress we have made thus far under the leadership of His Majesty King Hamad Bin Eisa Al Khalifa. As a country, we are committed to moving forward. Making such a false equivalence only serves to obfuscate this important work,” she wrote.

In Manama, Ali Saleh Al Saleh, the Chairman of the Consultative Council, the upper chamber of the bicameral parliament, deplored the reference and insisted that Bahrain represented a model of tolerance, moderation and community coexistence between all sects.