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Campaign for public freedom

SEVEN societies have been selected to form a taskforce to launch a nationwide campaign to promote personal freedom.

They were chosen at a meeting called by the Almuntada Society, at the Gulf Hotel's Gulf International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

Liberal societies called for a united stance against members of society who try to enforce their views and beliefs on others.

Examples highlighted include some religious groups' opposition to concerts and attempts by some MPs to introduce Sharia-based legislation, such as a recent suggestion to cut off people's hands for stealing.

Extremists have been getting more powerful in Bahrain and it is time for liberals and moderates to stand up to them, said Future Forum Society vice-president Dr Abdulla Al Madani.

"This is a growing problem which needs to be addressed before it gets out of hand," he remarked.

"Could you have ever imagined in your lives that someone in Bahrain could ever propose a law to cut off hands?"

Taking part in the meeting were signatories to a declaration to launch the effort, which came out of an earlier meeting on November 21.

The campaign, which was originally proposed by Almuntada, will be carried out by a seven-member taskforce consisting of Bahrain Youth Society, National Liberal Thought Society, Bahrain Women's Society, Almuntada, National Action Charity Society, the Future Forum Society and the Alumni Club.

Each society will select a member to represent it at the taskforce's meetings, the first of which will be held at the National Action Charter Society's premises in Mahooz today.

Future Forum Society chairman Hassan Buhijji said that the campaign would not be against people practising their religions in the ways they see fit, but only against attempts to control the freedom of others.

"To win support we need to explain to the public that we are not against their freedom of religion," he said.

Some participants in the meeting suggested that the scope of the campaign should be widened to attract more people.

They suggested addressing issues related to public freedoms, such as Bahrain's gatherings and societies laws, as well as personal freedoms.

But National Action Charter Society president Ahmed Juma said that it was better to stay focused on the issue at hand rather than try to address too many issues at the same time.

"If you don't have personal freedom, then you can't have public freedoms either," he said.

The meeting was chaired by Almuntada secretary-general Abdulwahed Abdulrahim.

Almuntada chairman Adel Fakhro said that the campaign should try to make personal freedom a central issue in this year's parliamentary elections.

"If we succeed in achieving this, we will have done a great thing."



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