Qatar’s crimes cannot even remotely come close to those that the West continues to perpetrate.
Saurabh Kumar Shahi
One of the most hilarious images to have come out of the ongoing FIFA World Cup in Qatar was an English fan complaining to a Western news channel about the disappointment he has faced as a fan while trying to enjoy the tournament. “Qatar must understand that it is the fans who run the game,” he adds in good measure. Only if you were not focusing on his words would you have realised that the man was dressed as a Templar Crusader in what was probably his first journey to the Arab world.
This small incident is representative of all the brouhaha that has come to surround the World Cup this year. That it is going to be tumultuous was a given. After all, when has ever the collective West forgiven a country outside of its sphere for committing the crime of organising a grand sporting event? And like always, it is human rights that are used as a stick to beat. It started with the Moscow Olympics and has found its way to Qatar via Beijing Olympics and Winter Olympics. So, as much as the bleeding-heart liberals want us not to believe, there is a clear pattern here. So, let’s analyse Qatar’s ‘crimes’ one by one.
The biggest, at least for the time being, appears to be its questionable human-rights records vis-à-vis foreign workers working there. A sizeable number of workers have died in the 12 years that took Qatar to complete the infrastructure for the games. In itself, the number is large and hence worrying. However, we are missing the forest for the trees here. If you put this number in perspective, it is not any higher than the number of workers who died in the making of any megapolis—from New York to Los Angeles to whatnot. First, a figure of 15000 was floated by Amnesty International. This is not only erroneous but sly. The figure includes the total number of non-Qataris who died in these 12 years because of various causes including illness, chronic illness, crime and accidents.
Marc Owen Jones, Associate Professor at Hamad Bin Khalifa University, burst this bubble with his back-of-the-napkin calculation.
“15000 deaths over nine years from a population of approximately 2.3 million (non-Qataris) equates to a death rate of 1 per 1000 per year (15,000/9/ pop x 1000 of each year since 2010 – which ranges from 1.7 mill in 2010 to 2.9 mill in 2019). For comparison, the death rate in the EU is 12 per 1000, India is 7,” he posted on Twitter.
This particularly brings the spotlight on the Indian liberals who have been raging about this issue on social media. That seven times more Indians die in India building vanity projects is of no consequence to them. What is of consequence to them is their latent Islamophobia. How dare the upstart Bedouins got this honour before us is the actual question inside their minds.
Does this mean Qatar is a model to imitate? Far from it! There’s blood on Qatar’s hands and it is stinking. Qatar’s sectarian designs in Syria made it support and fund al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliates al-Nusra, directly responsible for the death of several hundreds of thousands of Syrians. Their officials have time and again admitted to arming the al-Qaeda-affiliated rebels. However, none in the West talks about it, why? Because the US and the UK were parties to that same criminal effort. This correspondent is a persona non grata in Qatar for trying to expose these links through his reportage from Syria.
Writer and scholar Asa Winstanley sums it up very well when he says: “How many of the people currently criticising Qatar over ‘human rights’ will be criticising the US for its infinitely worse record when it hosts the World Cup in 2026? Almost none, making it empty posturing, at best. Pure racism at worst.”
Then come the cultural issues: the matter of banning ‘LGBTQ Propaganda’ and liquor in the stadium. This is a very interesting topic. While LGBTQ Rights are an issue of genuine concern, it is also a very handy tool to beat those whose cultural values don’t match the existing Western value system. No one cares that the West itself has reached the current standards on several issues after years of bitter and often violent struggles. Roe vs Wade has been upturned even as I write this. Abortion became fully legal in Ireland just a couple of years back. From Switzerland to France to Austria, European countries have banned Burkha because it doesn’t gel with their view of the world.
What’s interesting is that, in a parallel universe, if China forces local authorities in Xinjiang to serve alcohol and unfurl LGBTQ flags in their stadium, the same Westerners will be crying ‘cultural genocide’ of the Uyghurs. Such was the cacophony around the issue of LGBTQ that at one point one started wondering if the tournament is about the game of football or some kind of a voyeuristic peep-show. Most of the curbs were on the performative aspect of LGBTQ rights, not on the rights themselves. Qatar is not stopping any member of the community from watching the game. It is stopping you from carrying the paraphernalia that it considers in-your-face and not cognisant of its Islamic ethos. A compromise could have been easily reached, but the LGBTQ who have become so accustomed to browbeating people and institutions in the West saw this as their defeat. This is exactly what performative wokeness is.
It is not for nothing that a nauseated Gianni Infantino, head of FIFA, had to remind the agitated whites that Europeans shall have to beg forgiveness for the next 3000 years for what they have done for the last 3000 years. Of course, he is off by a couple of thousand years there but the point remains.
However, again, in this domain, is Qatar innocent? No, it is not. Qatar has been hosting sectarian clergies for a very long time and has provided them with space and finance to export their bigoted views all around the world. Yusuf al-Qardawi, a rabid takfiri clergyman who considered Shias heretics and Alawites wajib-ul-qatal spent the major part of his later life in the Qatar Government’s hospitality. To please the Qatari regime, Qaradawi tailored his views quite often. So while he denounced extremism rooted in Wahhabism and declared Islamic State a haram entity, his Muslim Brotherhood ideology neither finds any problem with Qatar’s funding of al Qaeda in Syria nor the “moderate rebels’” clarion call of “Sending Christians to Beirut and Alawites to the Grave.” (The original bigoted lines in Arabic have Beirut rhyme with taaboot – coffin.) This is also the reason why a large amount of anti-Qatari propaganda is originating from Saudi Arabia and UAE, its GCC colleagues who have a running feud with Qatar over latter’s support for Muslim Brotherhood who these Gulf regimes are running scared of.
For the current event, among the clergymen, Qatar has invited the fugitive Indian televangelist Zakir Naik is a prominent name. While it is true that someone like Zakir Naik will never get a fair trial from the Indian judicial system, it is also true that he is no saint. His sectarian viewpoints have made several Muslim countries also put a muzzle on his speeches.
The point is, no one is saying that Qatar is innocent. But, what yardstick are we using here? Unless performative-wokeness is your endgame, Qatar’s crimes cannot even remotely come close to the list of the crimes the West continues to perpetrate.
Saurabh Kumar Shahi has covered The Greater Middle East for over 15 years and has reported from Kabul, Peshawar, Baghdad, Aleppo, Damascus, Beirut, and Jerusalem among other places.