What about a World Cup in Qatar

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The FIFA World Cup is unarguably the hugest sport event of the world. Over three and a half billion people were said to have watched its previous tournament on television, a figure that approximates about half of the entire world population. 

Since Qatar announced that it would not open shebeens for alcohol consumption during the football fiesta, this Arab country had become a subject of lacerating attacks, most especially from the West.

Qatar went a step further in its “affront” to announce that, in the Arab world, LGBTQIA+, an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and more, was an anathema which the World Cup hosts will not justify on its land. 

LGBTQIA+ has recently gained ascendancy in the western world to describe the borderless spectrum of human freedom which guarantees a person freedom to assert their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The opening week of the Qatar World Cup was overshadowed by political controversy and high-
profile gestures of support for human rights. But what in the Gulf has been seen as western
hectoring has also turned the football tournament into a rare thing in the Arab world: a source of
regional unity.

Arabs have backed gas-rich Qatar’s handling of the World Cup, calling out what they regard as
western hypocrisy for criticising the conservative state’s lack of democracy, limits on alcohol and
ban on homosexuality — while asking Doha for more natural gas to replace Russian supplies
and having failed to scrutinise the previous tournament in Russia as aggressively.

“We don’t have as much sexual and political freedom as you do, don’t claim to be democratic, but we are stable prosperous monarchies [that] organise world-class events, compete with the best & have the best of everything — so eat your heart out neocolonialists, orientalists and western hypocrites,” Dubai-based political science professor Abdulkhaleq Abdulla wrote on Twitter.

The basic argument by the Qataris is that their western critics were basically hypocritical. While their most pervasive defence is that, while the West is diffident in its pursuit of the values that undergird its societies, it should allow Arabs the right to their basic values too.

One respondent argued that in the Arab world, if a guest comes on a visit to a household, the guest is guided by the rules of the household, beginning from the rules of gourmet, what the host offers on the table and is bound to respect the host’s family and home values. If, per adventure, the guest finds these abhorrent, they are at liberty to leave.

Among many, disdain for Doha’s politics during the boycott has been replaced by enthusiastic backing during the World Cup. “These silly pressures [over human rights] managed to do the impossible — they united the region on something,” said a Dubai businessman.

The exchange of brickbats has also afforded Qatari the opportunity of drilling down into the unflattering history of colonialism. References are made to “France who stole the wealth of Africa” and “America who made one million Iraqi suffer from hunger.”

“When we go to the west, we respect their customs and their laws,” said Mohamed Karam, a real estate agent in Cairo. “And they too should respect our customs and our laws.”

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