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Of masks and masking in Bahrain

[ by Charles Cameron — a clever play on words, is all ]


Headline writers are appallingly fond of puns, but I thought the sting in the tail of this piece from Al Arabiya English was particularly fine:

Bahrain imposes ban on Guy Fawkes masks

In an unusual move, the Bahraini government has banned the imports of something most people would find to be innocent, the Guy Fawkes mask, worn in the 2005 Hollywood movie ‘V’ for vendetta because it was seen as symbol of an uprising against the country’s rulers.

The Gulf Kingdom’s Industry and Commerce Minister, Hassan Fakhro, ordered a block on importing the facial garb, and anyone found importing could be put in detention. This is all due to the fact that anti-government protestors have been using them to remain anonymous.

The historical mask has been used in street demonstrations around the world, from the Occupy Wall street movement in the United States and UK to the Arab Spring revolutions that toppled strongmen in the likes of Muammar Qaddafi and Hosni Mubarak.

To many this may sound like a strange move given the fact that it is just a mask. At the end of the day the Minister may be able to put it on the black list but questions remain as to whether the government will be able to control production within the country.

Can the ban of this costume piece mask the deep set political issues in Bahrain?

That shift from “mask” the noun to “mask” the verb is quite delightful.

9 Responses to “Of masks and masking in Bahrain”

  1. Lisa Schwartz Says:

    For whatever reason, that’s one of my favorite movies even though it stars one of my least favorite actresses, the simpering, Natalie Portman.

  2. zen Says:


  3. Kanani Fong Says:

    Such a move is just masks the desperation of the current regime!  Nevertheless, masks of all sorts are in abundance, and who knows –maybe one of them will discover Max Headroom.

  4. Chris Says:

    Feels a little bit like playing the fiddle as Rome burns around you. I’d be fascinated to find out how routinely these masks are being used in protests in that part of the world. I haven’t seen much in the day to day reporting, but I guess that doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

  5. Bryan Alexander Says:

    I was expecting a move towards the masque.

  6. larrydunbar Says:

    Of course much of Islam is about removing the mask and revealing the truth underneath. Those who grow beards are not only devotees, they are showing the true self, from the mask of shaving 🙂

  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    There is in fact a hadith of the Prophet which says: 

    His veil is light, and if He removed it, the glorifications (subuhat) of His face would burn everything His eyesight fell upon.

    A stepped-down version of this observation could be made about our experience of the sun — often a helpful indicator of the presence of a symbol in the sense in which Coleridge used that term, such that:

    A symbol is characterized… above all by the translucence of the Eternal through and in the Temporal. It always partakes of the Reality which it Renders Intelligible; and while it enunciates the whole, abides itself as a living part in that Unity of which it is representative.

  8. Curtis Gale Weeks Says:

    So you’re saying that the Prophet believed Allah was Cyclops from X-men?

  9. Charles Cameron Says:

    As I understand it, Allah is “one without a second” and would be self-effulgent.

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