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


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

“It’s not proper to go,” Mr. Stewart told the The Sunday Times 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 match, which began this previous weekend, Qatar has confronted an rising barrage of criticism over its human rights report, together with the authoritarian monarchy’s criminalization of homosexuality and the well-documented abuse of migrant workers.

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 by means of 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 match has introduced a disproportionate burst of detrimental protection, they are saying, and spawned descriptions of their nation and people who really feel outdated and stereotypical, portray a picture of Qatar that they barely acknowledge.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 fuel from Qatar in the event that they discover the nation so abhorrent that they can’t watch soccer there? Why don’t among the worldwide figures who’ve spoken out towards Qatar do the identical for the United Arab Emirates?

They’ve additionally mentioned 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 generally appears to have performed the alternative.

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.” Speaking to a German newspaper, the Qatari overseas minister, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani, mentioned that among the criticism was racist and boastful.

Organizers have mentioned 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 hardly ever makes world information. That’s partly why Qatari officers wanted to host the tournament. It suits into a broader, decades-long push by Qatar’s rulers to show the once-obscure nation right into a distinguished world participant, a technique funded by huge pure fuel 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 loads of mosques.” In a photo 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 girls sporting denims or quick attire are comparatively frequent, not like in neighboring Saudi Arabia.)

“A variety of reporters lump in all Arab nations collectively,” mentioned Justin Martin, an affiliate professor of journalism on the Doha Institute for Graduate Research, who has spent 10 years in Qatar. “It’s a mixture 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 one 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 phase about Qatar’s remedy of L.G.B.T.Q. individuals.

Khalifa Al Haroon, who runs a web-based guests’ information referred to as I Love Qatar, mentioned, “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 crucial points.” Loving his nation means fixing its issues, he added, and he thinks consideration to staff’ rights has helped instigate constructive change. However he mentioned that he had been upset by simplistic portrayals that he feels are laced with discrimination.

“How can we deal with the issues when it’s in regards to the tonality, it’s in regards to the verbiage, it’s in regards to the phrases used?” Mr. Al Haroon mentioned.

Mr. Martin, the journalism professor, mentioned he believes that a part of the explanation the protection has been so ferocious is as a result of the match’s shift from summer season to November angered followers and sports activities journalists by disrupting different nations’ 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 mentioned. “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 recommendations that the wall chart performed on stereotypes. The journal’s cartoonist “attracts most figures” with giant noses and the money was supposed to symbolize the bribes that American investigators and FIFA itself have mentioned have been paid to a number of FIFA board members within the awarding of the match, Mr. Lyons wrote in an electronic mail.

Criticism of the World Cup’s host nation accompanies each match, to various levels. South Africa faced it over safety concerns earlier than the 2010 competitors, Brazil faced it over corruption and crime forward of the 2014 version, and Russia faced 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 focus on prejudice as a method of stoking nationalism and deflecting consideration from abuses. Political participation in Qatar is severely restricted. L.G.B.T.Q. individuals face bigotry and probably prosecution by the authorities. Girls 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, mentioned, “I believe we’re justified in our outrage towards the racist and Orientalist undertones that characterize the criticism emanating from the West towards Qatar these days.”

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

Whereas the Qatari authorities has improved protections for migrant staff, activists say that the modifications are inadequate. Susceptible migrant staff, primarily from South Asia and Africa, constructed the infrastructure that made the World Cup potential. 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 sequence of incidents within the prelude to the match haven’t helped. Journalists bristled at restrictions on the areas the place they might movie. An abrupt resolution to ban beer at the stadiums brought about an outcry. FIFA prevented workforce 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 have been to some, they resonated with many within the Center East, who centered specifically on one comment he made: “I believe for what we Europeans have been doing all over the world for the final 3,000 years, we ought to be apologizing for the following 3,000 years, earlier than beginning to give ethical classes.”

Youssef Cherif, director of Columbia College’s Columbia World Middle in Tunis, mentioned 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 one in every 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 stuffed with soccer fanatics.

“For 450 million Arabs, that is one thing they thought they might by no means see of their lifetimes,” Ali Al-Ansari, Qatar’s media attaché in the USA, mentioned 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 nations, who’re sadly unable to look previous their prejudice, understand it,” Mr. Al-Ansari mentioned.

Rory Smith contributed reporting.

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