Migrant Workers, LGBTQ, and the Media outrage:
As a son of an immigrant in Qatar, I’ve always found Qatar to be my second home or even first at times. A country that I’ve always found welcoming of all people from every corner of the world, irrespective of their race, religion, language, etc. This is the Qatar I have lived in for years, even before it won the controversial bid for the world cup 2022.
As the world cup is well on its way, we see that the host country has been bombarded with various criticisms, some valid and others not. All criticisms have been characterized and labelled as violations of human rights. It has been suggested that we, as moral individuals, boycott Qatar, because failing to do so implies that we approve of such actions. This situation presents an excellent opportunity to unpack and discuss these issues. This is critical because these conflicts will shape our perception of how our moral norms differ from those of other cultures. Furthermore, it has been claimed that sports are an event that allows us to share a spectacle with one another, allowing each of us to look beyond our political differences. It is worth deliberating, when our participation, rather than abstention, will help improve the situation.
One of the concerns raised as a violation of human rights is the plight of the migrant labor force, who have worked tirelessly in the harsh conditions of summer heat and cold desert nights to create the spectacle that is currently taking place. Qatar has lavishly spent between $220 and $229 billion on this event. As a result, it has created incredible infrastructure, such as metros, roads, airports, highways, bus services, hotels, fan accommodations, fan zones, and so on. However, it is clear that it has come at the expense of human lives.
According to reports from international media outlets and human rights organisations, between 2010 and 2020, there were anywhere from 1,400 to 6,500 deaths. And, while the government does not deny the deaths, it claims that only three of them occurred on-site. Needless to say, the reports indicate that there has been severe negligence in looking after the needs of at least part of the labour force. This situation has no two sides, the Qatari government must look into these cases and make amends with the families who have been deprived of a relative.
Previous World Cups:
A glance at the previous World Cups, they too have witnessed deaths in the pursuit of hosting a great world cup, to not look at the previous world cup hosts will amount to viewing this situation in isolation. Nevertheless, no one should die in the aspiration of constructing buildings for a mere game.
There is uncertainty in the numbers as there seems to be an exaggeration on both sides, but before we criticize Qatar, which should be done, rightfully, we should take a step back and understand the larger picture of the work culture that has existed in the country.
The Kafala System and Remedies:
In the Severe heat conditions of the GCC countries, the labour force has always faced challenges, this was not peculiar to Qatar. The ‘Kafala’ system that has been justly condemned is a system that was in place way before this cup was awarded. And since the work started in Qatar in 2010, it has been on the receiving end of heavy criticism from international human rights organizations on its treatment of its labour force, which it has gradually improved by bringing in reformations to the persisting system. Since then, it has made a compulsory minimum wage, layoff hours have been given in hot conditions and even workforce forums have been created to let the workers voice their grievances. Other problems such as passport confiscation, change of work, and the restriction to leave the country have been removed.
Reformations to the persisting work culture are a part of the solution to a problem that was engrained in the history and culture of the country and its migrant labour workers. One further step to ensure justice would be retributive justice, whether be it 3 workers or more, the country should pay an amount as compensation to the workers’ families who have suffered death or irreversible health conditions, it is imperative that Qatar pay its debts to them.
While the media has a right and an obligation to critique, it would be unfair of us to do so without acknowledging the significant but gradual reforms Qatar has made in its approach toward the labour force. Moreover, when we look at the larger picture, including Human rights violations in world cup hosting countries and elsewhere, It is astounding how inconsistent and out of proportion, the criticism of the media is.
Qatar’s Emir on the Disproportionate Criticism
“… Since we were awarded the honour to host the World Cup, Qatar has faced unprecedented criticism, like no other host country has faced. We have dealt with the situation from the beginning in good faith.” – Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar –
The hypocrisy of the Mainstream Media regarding Human Rights:
Last year the winter Olympics were held in Beijing, China, one of the worst human rights abusers of the 21st century. A planned genocide was carried out against the Uyghurs where they were forcibly abducted and incarcerated in concentration camps, sterilized, killed, tortured, indoctrinated, separated from their families, kids, etc. Regardless, still, the Western media didn’t bat an eye on the transpired massacre. These severe human rights violations and crimes against humanity were insufficient to bring up the discourse that ‘the event should be banned’. And Although the UK, US and Canada brought the motion to debate in the UN, the media of the west as a collective remained either neutral or silent on Uyghur. The selective approach to defending the human rights of these media houses is sickening and hypocritical. The same media has been calling for a boycott of the Qatar world cup and the irony is the next world cup is awarded to the ‘champion of human rights abuse’ in 2026.
Now as the event began, the UK’s TV broadcasters of the world cup, BBC, and ITV did not show the opening ceremony, leaving the spectators with no alternative option. These TV broadcasters didn’t have a problem broadcasting the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing while the Uyghur people were suffering. Why is it that these states and their media take visibly different approaches to these two scenarios?
FIFA President on the Attack from the Media
After the president of FIFA Gianni Infantino spoke to the press one day prior to the event talking about the west’s hypocrisy.
He said “I think for what we Europeans have been doing for 3,000 years around the world, we should be apologising for the next 3,000 years before starting to give moral lessons to people”
The purpose of bringing up these instances of the Western media is not to refute Qatar’s charges. It is not to bring a counter-accusation for an accusation. The flagrant hypocrisy on display here is obvious, but more importantly, it calls into doubt the media’s questioning of Qatar. It is important to question the motivation and reliability of the global media. Additionally, viewers of the biased news that these media outlets provide ought to be extremely critical of it.
Controversies on restrictions of Alchohol, LGBTQ, etc:
Qatar has gone above and beyond its normative rules, regulations, and restrictions on alcohol and other entertainments to accommodate fans from all over the world holding different opinions and views, with huge fan zones across the country, fans are allowed to drink, dance, and party. Nonetheless what remains ironic is the alcohol restrictions in other countries (France, Spain, or others) are not viewed as a hindrance to the game, however a country in the middle east that is Muslim will not only be viewed as backward and regressive but also will be deemed unfit to host a world cup for the very same act. This illustrates the underlying presumption that is held against a Muslim nation like Qatar; it is quite evident and it demonstrates the hypocrisy and bigotry of these countries and of those who obediently follow the lead of the western-imperialist media.
A couple of days prior to the opening ceremony, there were numerous discussions in the media and a few small protests in European countries, particularly one in England in front of the Qatar embassy where they voiced their opinions speaking against the LGBTQ stance of the host country, ironically the protesters speak about an objective moral high ground, while basing their liberal thought on subjective morality. Almost every media representative of the Qatar World cup is being questioned on this matter.
“Open Homosexuality is not allowed?” a journalist asked.
“Everyone is welcome. Listen, public display of affection is frowned upon and that goes across the board. Qatar is a modest country, that’s all that needs to be respected” Nasser al-Khater, CEO of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
According to some sources, Qatar has spent a remarkable 229 billion dollars on this world cup and is set to gain only around 15-20 billion dollars in total revenues from these few days of the global festival of football. It is inevitable that the net balance will be negative and it is set to lose money, as it was never supposed to be an opportunity to merely earn some money.
Qatar considers this as a chance to showcase itself to the world, to show the beauty of its culture, to represent the Muslim way of life, perhaps it would assist in eradicating misconceptions the modern world has about Muslim countries. And it is willing to risk its substantial investments in these projects for that reason. Despite the enormous financial stakes and the pressure from millions of spectators, it appears that Qatar will not compromise its values and beliefs.
“You cannot change the religion for 28 days” – Major Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari, Head of Security, Qatar World Cup 2022
Diyar-e-Maghrib Ke Rehne Walo! Khuda Ki Basti Dukan Nahin Hai
O Western world’s inhabitants, God’s world is not a shop! (Mohammed Iqbal, Bang-e-Dra-092, March 1907)
The World should respect the distinct moral position of a Muslim country, The Liberal-Western-Modern thought that is promoted on a global scale is evidently intolerant of different values that are incoherent to their intellect and disparate from their lifestyle. Is it incapable of understanding and accepting different views and cultures? Why does it presuppose a moral high ground in debatable matters, self-contradicting to their own free thought principles?
The international media has a reputation for misunderstanding, misrepresenting, manipulating, and even flat-out lying at times. The media carefully engineers opinions that society completely or at least partially absorbs in its conscience. The populace becomes incapable of seeing beyond the curtain on which the propaganda of the west is displayed. Therefore, it is essential that every news item should be critically viewed, scrutinised, and cross-checked, especially those that include media outlets’ viewpoints.
All kinds of accusations have been and are being thrown at Qatar, from a few considerable ones to ones where football culture, accommodational problems, and paid fans are brought in to needlessly create doubts. As far as the problem of Migrant workers is concerned, along with the reformations made in these past years, Qatar must pay retributive justice to the affected families. And as for the media is concerned, the viewers must understand that these media houses take a selective approach to human rights, choosing only those incidents they deem worthy of reporting as human rights violations. A death of an Uyghur is not the same as other deaths. But as for the problem of alcohol or the open display of the LGBTQ+ community is concerned, the world must respect the religion and culture of the country. And understand that no amount of pressure will derail this nation’s faith in its beliefs.