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Female Jewish Lawmaker Candidate for Bahrain Ambassador to US

Muslim Bahrain’s lone female Jewish lawmaker is a contender for the post of Ambassador to the United States.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 5/2/2008, 9:25 AM

Huda Nunu, he only female Jewish legislator in Bahrain, may become the Muslim nation's Ambassador to the United States.

Bahrain, a pro-Western Arab emirate island numbering some half a million souls in the Persian Gulf, is home to less than ten Jewish families.

Nunu, a businesswoman as well as the head of the Bahrain Human Rights Watch, is also a mother of two and lives part of the time in London as well.

Nunu's family is prominent among the remnant of the once-vibrant Jewish community in Bahrain. She is one of two Jewish members of the legislature's upper chamber, the Shura Council, but the only Jewish woman. She replaced her cousin Ibrahim, who served in the seat for four years.

The Shura Council is a 40-member body appointed by the king. It also includes a Christian among its 11 female lawmakers. The 40-member elected lower house only has one female legislator.

In an interview with the Associated Press (AP) on Wednesday, Nunu cautioned that "Nothing is official yet," and referred the reporter to Bahrain's Foreign Ministry for further comment. Foreign Ministry officials, said AP, could not be reached for comment but embassy spokesperson Yasmina Britel in Washington DC later confirmed that Nunu is "one of the nominees." Britel could not say when a final decision would be made.

Bahrain is a close US ally, hosting the base of the US navy's 5th fleet. If Nono is appointed, Bahrain will become the first Arab country to send a high-level Jewish diplomat to Washington, possibly also signaling a new opening for relations with Israel as well.

Shura Council Supports Nono Candidacy
Although the country itself is ruled by Sunni Muslims and populated by a Shi'ite Muslim majority, there appears to be a great deal of support for Nunu's candidacy for the position.

The daily Gulf News newspaper quoted Faisal Fouladh, a representative of the Shura Council, as saying it would be "very good news" for the country's "deep-rooted values of tolerance and openness" if Nunu were to be appointed Ambassador to Washington.

A second newspaper, the pro-government daily Akhbar Alkhaleej, also reported that Nunu was likely to win the post.

Jewish History of Bahrain
Currently there are fewer than ten Jewish families left in Bahrain, where Jews have lived since ancient times, with Arabic records noting their refusal to convert to Islam during Islam’s founder Muhammed's takeover of the territory.