The familiar face was closing the Costa Coffee on Adliya’s Osama Bin Zaid Avenue shortly before three am. No need to hang around and it had probably seen its last guest over two hours ago. On I went to the airport, accompanied by the thought that by the time I reach Munich, get to Fürstenfeldbruck, have a little sleep, followed by a little walk, Bahrain will still be locked down for Ramadan.
In other words, it would have been fifteen hours before I could have enjoyed my coming up for air sup of coffee and if I were in any doubt as to how serious any transgression of the no drinking or eating in public during Ramadan rule is I was to be reminded of it later in the morning as the first leg of the journey stopped in Abu Dhabi and we were told in no uncertain terms that even sipping water in the Emirates is forbidden during the Muslim holy month. When compared to the K.S.A. these might be “more liberal” states, but what a comparison!
Yes, it is good to be back in live and let live land where even running around in the real McCoy hijab will attract nothing more than a few stares, accompanied with a shake of the head. It is good to be back in a part of the world where I can get a cup of coffee in public when I want during normal opening hours. It is good to be back in a part of the world where religion stops at the front door, leaves you alone in public, and doesn’t intrude unless you let it and, while, that statement has to be qualified by the church bellsfrom earlier posts, it is great to be in a part of the world where you can say what you want, even if, we can rest assured that what we are saying is now being monitored at least as much as it is in those absolute monarchies up and down the Gulf and we can also be certain that what we say is hardly going to change things at the top. Nevertheless, if freedom is, indeed, relative, praise be to relativity and if it is going to take time to turn back the tide and re-build the system of oversight that has been dismantled since 9/11, let’s at least take that rebuilding seriously. Otherwise we are going to wake up one morning, finding ourself in mickey mouse pseudo societies where our rulers dance on our heads while we have no option but to believe them that everything is hunky-dory even when it is quite clear that it is not.