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The 10th annual Manama Dialogue, hosted by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, brings together representatives from states in the Gulf region and outside powers to exchange views on the defense and security challenges facing the Gulf. The 2014 Manama Dialogue is being held 5th-7th December. On the first evening of the “summit” Crown Prince of Bahrain Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Bahrain Defence Force and First Deputy Prime Minister, provided opening remarks to the conferees, addressing the war on terrorism. He asked the audience to consider discussion and debate of renaming the phenomenon the “war on theocrats.” Here for your consideration is Prince Salman’s address.
SUSRIS will provide additional speeches and repots from the Manama Dialogue along with links to related materials and previous IISS Manama Dialogue sessions. Check the SUSRIS Special Section: “Manama Dialogue – 2014.” You can also read an assessment of key regional issues — ISIS, Yemen and Iran — by Dr. John Duke Anthony and Dr. Imad Kamel Harb, “The Tenth Manama Dialogue and Regional Challenges,” which was provided by SUSRIS.com on December 4, 2014.
The IISS Manama Dialogue 2014: 10th Regional Security Summit – Opening
HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa
December 5, 2014
[HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Prime Minister, Bahrain] Your Highnesses, Lords and Ladies, Your Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 10th IISS Manama Dialogue. Thank you for making the effort to come. I myself, along with Dr John Chipman, are extremely proud of what we have been able to achieve in partnership over the past ten years. I know that this forum is one of the most important in the world, and your time is very valuable, so you taking some of it to come and visit us here in the Kingdom and to visit with each other is very much appreciated, and I think valued.
Ladies and gentlemen, I do not have a keynote address, but I do have a thought I would like to leave with you over this time, and maybe it is something that you can keep in the back of your mind, you can discuss, you can debate. If we look at the strategic situation that we find ourselves in, our war on terror is a little bit older than ten years, but not by much. I think the time has come for us to get rid of that name. It is a bit misleading; it is not the entirety and the totality of our conflict, or of our strategic direction or threats. Terrorism is merely the tool that is used by people. If I think back in the last century, we faced a very different foe; we faced communism and we faced it together. But when we faced communism, we understood it as an ideology. Terrorism is not an ideology.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are not only fighting terrorists. We are fighting theocrats. I use the term theocrats because this war that we are engaged in cannot be against Islam, cannot be against Christianity, cannot be against Judaism, cannot be against Buddhism. It is unfair to those of us who practise our religion responsibly and in the manner that I believe that it was brought to us to practise, and it sullies the name of a great tradition and a great philosophy that is divine and must be above politics.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we are to call ourselves in a war with theocrats, then I believe that we can start to put together the military, social, political and maybe even economic policies in a holistic manner to counter this threat, as we did with communism. But what do we call it? Do we call it theocrism, to invent a word? Do we call it fascist theocracy? We must find a term that we can all share. The absurdity of having ISIL, ISIS, Daesh, all representing one group, al-Qaeda, and God knows what else in the future, allows us to hop blindly and haphazardly from one threat to the other without containing it within a complete paradigm.
I prefer to call the events of 2011 the Arab Storm; it was certainly not a spring. History will judge, whether it was Berlin in 1989, or the Bolsheviks in 1917, where state paradigms collapse and into the vacuum comes an extreme new ideology. Ladies and gentlemen, we will be fighting these theocrats for a very long time; of that, I have no doubt. The question is, do we have the courage and the moral and intellectual integrity to call them out for what they are? These are people who try to govern us here on earth and in the hereafter. These are people who isolate themselves from the rest of the international community. These are people who disregard human life and do not value the social order and the social contracts that we have established among ourselves, in societies and peoples. These are people who oppress women, and these are people who slaughter anyone who does not condone, approve of or subscribe to their own twisted ideology.
While politics may drag people into ideology, it is the ideology itself that must be combated. It must be named, it must be shamed, it must be contained. Eventually, it must be defeated, and we must use all resources to hold accountable those who place themselves above other ordinary human beings and claim they have a divine right to rule. I think, instead of entering into debates about certain political parties, whether they are Islamist or not, faith can certainly be part of any political platform. But what we cannot have is a man, an individual, placed at the top of an ideology, who has the power by religious edict to strip someone of their hereafter and use that for political gains. It sounds very much like the seventeenth century to me, and ladies and gentlemen, the seventeenth century has no place in our modern twenty-first century.
That is the one thought, really, that I call on you to discard the term ‘war on terror’ and focus on the real threat, which is the rise of these evil theocracies.
Thank you very much.
HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa is Crown Prince of the Kingdom of Bahrain, Deputy Supreme Commander of the Bahrain Defence Force and First Deputy Prime Minister
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