GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
Social media and the forging of a transnational Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a identity: the case of the Kingdom of Bahrain
Paper Proposal Text :
The series of recent uprisings in the Middle East has been often called the Facebook Revolution due to the role of the social media in gathering supporters, organizing the movement as well as coordinating widespread protests. Anti-government sentiment has been fermenting in Bahrain for the past three decades, leading occasionally to violent upheavals, however the successes of the Tunisian and Egyptian popular uprisings provided an opportunity to bring international sympathy and attention on Bahrain. In this paper, we propose to focus on the aftermath of the Bahraini \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Day of Rage\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" and analyze how the social media act as a tool for formation of a transnational Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a identity. Based on the analysis of web content written by Bahraini activists, namely Facebook, Twitter, web forums and blogs, this paper assesses the strengthening of the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a community in Bahrain and their coreligionists in neighboring countries around a common sentiment. Moreover, it is necessary to focus on how the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a community in Bahrain reaches out to get the support of social media worldwide.
Indeed, the case of Bahrain is particularly interesting due to the composition of the Bahraini population. Ninety-eight percent of native Bahrainis are Muslim. Jews and Christians make up the remaining two percent. Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a Muslims are more numerous and account for 60 - 70 percent of Muslims in the kingdom (Nasr, 2006). Even though the participants of the protests claimed to represent all segments of society, the upheaval was widely branded in Bahrain as a \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a revolt\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\". Religious affiliation in Bahrain was a social cleavage that already existed, however the sectarian interpretation of the protests, widespread in the media, further exacerbated the partition of society. Subsequently, the protesters were accused of acting on the orders of Iran to topple the Sunni dynasty of Al Khalifa. Moreover, due to the unfolding events, all citizens were gradually forced to take a stand by supporting or opposing the movement. Pro-government camp watched the events with growing resentment and even outrage, and subsequently, welcomed the arrival of GCC troops to foil the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"plot\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" (Santana, 2009). Given these circumstances, the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a community found itself ostracized, their acts being often demonized in the local media.
The effect of these events on the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a community is twofold. On the one hand, the common, transnational identity is cemented around the idea of constant suffering, oppression and martyrdom. Present events are often compared with historical battle of Karbala in 680 AD and subsequent persecutions of followers the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a branch of Islam. This sentiment was strengthened by the arrival of Saudi troops to Bahrain, understood by the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a community as another act of discrimination committed by the Sunnis. It reverberated in Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a communities in the Gulf region in the so-called \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a crescent\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\". The forging of a transational Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a identity is directly linked to advent of Information and Communication Technologies (Karolak, 2010). Moreover, the recent decades led to a growing awareness and political role in the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a circles in the Middle East (Nakash, 2006) with leaders such as Hassan Nasrallah in Lebanon or Muqtada Al-Sadr in Iraq. On the other hand, the shared sentiment is to seek justice, truth, protection of human rights as well as to foster political change. This is why, the Shi\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'a community addresses itself to the international communities to exert external pressure on the Bahrain government. Such polarization in the Bahraini society can easily lead to the spread of radicalism on both sides of the social conflict. Thus, it is even more important to analyze the aftermath of the \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\"Day of Rage\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\" in Bahrain.

Cited works:
Karolak, M. (2010). Religion in the political context: case of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Asia Journal of Global Studies, 4(1), 4-20.
Nakash, Y. (2006). Reaching for Power. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Nasr, V. (2006). The Shia revival: How conflicts within Islam will shape the future. New York: W. W. Norton.
Santana, R. (2009). AP: Bahrain\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\\'s Shiites push for rights. Retrieved 2010, 12 January, from