WorldQataris Say Criticism of Country Amid World Cup Is...

Qataris Say Criticism of Country Amid World Cup Is Rooted in Stereotypes


When the singer Rod Stewart was supplied greater than $1 million to carry out in Qatar, he stated, he turned it down.

“It’s not proper to go,” Mr. Stewart informed the The Sunday Instances of London just lately, becoming a member of a string of public figures to declare boycotts or specific condemnation of Qatar because the Gulf nation hosts the soccer World Cup.

Within the prelude to the event, which began this previous weekend, Qatar has confronted an growing barrage of criticism over its human rights report, together with the authoritarian monarchy’s criminalization of homosexuality and the well-documented abuse of migrant employees.

But Mr. Stewart voiced no such disapproval when he carried out in 2010 in Dubai or 2017 in Abu Dhabi, cities within the close by United Arab Emirates — a rustic that additionally has an authoritarian monarchy and has confronted allegations of human rights violations however that has extra efficiently cultivated a Western-friendly picture. Mr. Stewart declined a request for remark via his public relations agency.

That sort of dissonance is one which has more and more pissed off Qataris as they face the glare of the worldwide highlight that trains on every World Cup. The event has introduced a disproportionate burst of adverse protection, they are saying, and spawned descriptions of their nation and people who really feel outdated and stereotypical, portray a picture of Qatar that they barely acknowledge.

Qataris say that they’re calling out the double requirements. Why, they ask, do Europeans purchase pure gasoline from Qatar in the event that they discover the nation so abhorrent that they can not watch soccer there? Why don’t among the worldwide figures who’ve spoken out in opposition to Qatar do the identical for the United Arab Emirates?

They’ve additionally stated that they hope the primary World Cup to be held in an Arab nation will problem stereotypes about Qataris, Arabs and Muslims.

As a substitute, it typically appears to have performed the other.

In a speech final month, the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, referred to as the opprobrium “an unprecedented marketing campaign that no host nation has ever confronted.” Talking to a German newspaper, the Qatari overseas minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, stated that among the criticism was racist and conceited.

Organizers have stated that at the very least 15,000 journalists are anticipated to go to Qatar, a rustic with a inhabitants of three million, for the World Cup. The torrent of reporting has been overwhelming for a rustic that not often makes international information. That’s partly why Qatari officers needed to host the event. It suits right into a broader, decades-long push by Qatar’s rulers to show the once-obscure nation right into a distinguished international participant, a method funded by huge pure gasoline wealth.

However the media response has not been what Qatar had hoped for. Requested by a tv presenter about his impressions of the nation, a French reporter replied, “There are quite a lot of mosques.” In a photograph caption, The Instances of London wrote, “The Qataris are unaccustomed to seeing ladies in Western gown of their nation,” a sentence that was later amended. (Actually, overseas residents make up greater than 85 % of the inhabitants of Qatar, and ladies sporting denims or quick attire are comparatively widespread, not like in neighboring Saudi Arabia.)

“Loads of reporters lump in all Arab international locations collectively,” stated Justin Martin, an affiliate professor of journalism on the Doha Institute for Graduate Research, who has spent 10 years in Qatar. “It’s a mix of simply abject ignorance and Orientalist tropes.”

Even some Qataris who welcome criticism as an invite for enchancment say that they’ve been dismayed by the media protection, which they imagine is underpinned by prejudices based mostly in racism, Orientalism and Islamophobia.

An article in a single British tabloid decried Qatar’s “savage” legal guidelines, a reference that was later modified to “brutal.” On the Rupert Murdoch-owned TalkTV, a comparatively small British channel, a presenter requested a visitor, “How a lot respect ought to we present to cultures which we take into account to be, frankly, an abomination?” throughout a section about Qatar’s remedy of L.G.B.T.Q. individuals.

Khalifa Al Haroon, who runs an internet guests’ information referred to as I Love Qatar, stated, “My greatest concern is due to all the racism, or what’s being perceived as articles fueled by racism, it’s taking away from the essential points.” Loving his nation means fixing its issues, he added, and he thinks consideration to employees’ rights has helped instigate constructive change. However he stated that he had been upset by simplistic portrayals that he feels are laced with discrimination.

“How can we concentrate on the issues when it’s concerning the tonality, it’s concerning the verbiage, it’s concerning the phrases used?” Mr. Al Haroon stated.

Mr. Martin, the journalism professor, stated he believes that a part of the rationale the protection has been so ferocious is as a result of the event’s shift from summer time to November angered followers and sports activities journalists by disrupting different international locations’ soccer schedules. There’s additionally been “enmity” over the restricted availability of alcohol in Qatar, a comparatively conservative Islamic nation, he famous.

The Instances of London and TalkTV didn’t reply to requests for remark.

Stereotypical imagery has performed harm as properly, many Qataris say. The British soccer journal When Saturday Comes created a World Cup wall chart with depictions of large-nosed males, two in Gulf Arab apparel, together with one pushing a wheelbarrow full of money. The poster was used for instance of prejudiced portrayals by the Qatari-owned channel Al Jazeera throughout an interview with Hassan Al Thawadi, who heads Qatar’s World Cup group.

“They’ve a stereotypical concept that was ingrained within the Western world for generations and ages,” Mr. Al Thawadi stated. “On the whole, the idea is individuals who aren’t civilized, and the one factor constructive about them is cash.”

Andy Lyons, editor of When Saturday Comes, rejected solutions that the wall chart performed on stereotypes. The journal’s cartoonist “attracts most figures” with massive noses and the money was meant to signify the bribes that American investigators and FIFA itself have stated had been paid to a number of FIFA board members within the awarding of the event, Mr. Lyons wrote in an e-mail.

Criticism of the World Cup’s host nation accompanies each event, to various levels. South Africa confronted it over security considerations earlier than the 2010 competitors, Brazil confronted it over corruption and crime forward of the 2014 version, and Russia confronted it over political repression, homophobia and police brutality within the prelude to the 2018 model.

However for Qataris and different Arabs, a lot of what they’re seeing hurts as a result of it compounds centuries of dangerous representations by North Individuals and Europeans.

Nonetheless, some analysts see the federal government’s efforts to spotlight prejudice as a means of stoking nationalism and deflecting consideration from abuses. Political participation in Qatar is severely restricted. L.G.B.T.Q. individuals face bigotry and doubtlessly prosecution by the authorities. Ladies in Qatar maintain management positions, however require permission from a male guardian to marry or, earlier than the age of 25, journey overseas.

Mira Al Hussein, an Emirati sociologist at Oxford College, stated, “I believe we’re justified in our outrage in opposition to the racist and Orientalist undertones that characterize the criticism emanating from the West in opposition to Qatar these days.”

“However we can’t fault the very fact,” she added, that Qatar and the remainder of the Gulf States continuously make headlines for a “lamentable human rights report.”

Whereas the Qatari authorities has improved protections for migrant employees, activists say that the modifications are inadequate. Susceptible migrant employees, primarily from South Asia and Africa, constructed the infrastructure that made the World Cup attainable. They face abuse and exploitation, working grueling hours for meager pay — although students level out that Gulf societies are only one locus in a worldwide system that creates these hierarchies.

A collection of incidents within the prelude to the event haven’t helped. Journalists bristled at restrictions on the places the place they may movie. An abrupt determination to ban beer on the stadiums induced an outcry. FIFA prevented group captains from sporting rainbow-colored armbands in matches as a part of a social justice marketing campaign.

When FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, attacked Western critics of Qatar on Saturday, he successfully wrested the narrative away from a few of these episodes.

However as off-putting as his feedback had been to some, they resonated with many within the Center East, who targeted particularly on one comment he made: “I believe for what we Europeans have been doing world wide for the final 3,000 years, we must be apologizing for the following 3,000 years, earlier than beginning to give ethical classes.”

Youssef Cherif, director of Columbia College’s Columbia World Heart in Tunis, stated that Qatar and the United Arab Emirates had comparable labor and human rights violations. However, he added, “whereas each autocracies reached the hearts and minds of Arabs, solely certainly one of them gained in Western circles, and that’s the U.A.E.,” attributing the distinction to the Emirates’ having crafted a “modernist, lovable, Orientalist model for themselves.”

Qatari organizers have tried to make use of the World Cup to introduce guests to their tradition and extra broadly, to Islam, with translations of prophetic sayings displayed across the capital, Doha. Officers emphasize that it’s the first World Cup in a area full of soccer fanatics.

“For 450 million Arabs, that is one thing they thought they’d by no means see of their lifetimes,” Ali Al-Ansari, Qatar’s media attaché in the USA, stated in a written assertion.

“The success of this World Cup is not going to be measured by how some individuals and teams in a small variety of European international locations, who’re sadly unable to look previous their prejudice, understand it,” Mr. Al-Ansari stated.

Rory Smith contributed reporting.


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