So much has been going on with Qatar recently that I’ve had so much to blog about, I’ve not really known where to start!
Suddenly Qatar is on the map, after winning the 2022 World Cup bid. I don’t know what that means for us personally (will we still be in Qatar in 2022? Will it mean 12 years of roadworks and construction project hell from now until then? Probably!).
I wasn’t at all surprised that Qatar won. From everything I’ve read about Qatari culture, I got the impression that they would know how to ‘play the game’, so to speak. I’m not saying there were outright bribes, but I expect a lot of schmoozing and nepotism was involved, which ties in closely with the Qatari way of doing business. I also knew that with Qatar billing itself as the sporting state of the Gulf, there was no question of them not getting the World Cup – they would have made it happen, come rain or shine.
I fully expect them to get the Grand Prix next – it wouldn’t surprise me if the new Lusail development has been built with that in mind. Anyway, I digress….
There’s no getting away from the fact that the World Cup bid could be a real game-changer for Qatar. Suddenly, the world is shining a light on this little country, and the West doesn’t seem to like what it sees.
I’ve been trying to keep up with the keywords ‘Qatar’ and ‘Doha’ on Tweetdeck, but since the World Cup bid that’s been a difficult task! Suddenly everyone and his gran has an opinion on Qatar, most of it alarmingly misinformed of course.
I’ve kind of been caught in the middle of it all and my bum is now sore from sitting on the fence! I can see why people are questioning Qatar and I can also see why Qatar comes across the way it does because I’ve done a little bit of research about the culture over there. OK so I’ve not yet immersed myself in Qatari life, but I do consider myself to be slightly better informed about Qatar than some of the journalists spouting crap about it.
It kind of makes me think….am I being too forgiving on some of the Qatari ways out of some sort of misplaced political correctness? Should I be raging against their homophobia and ridiculously conservative notions the way that many others are? The way that I do when I come across such things in my Western world?
After all, the homophobic/conservative bullshit spouted by the Sarah Palins and Catholic priests of this world really riles me. I am a very liberal person – I don’t care what you get up to as long as you’re not affecting anybody else, and I don’t care how much flesh you want to put on show, as we’ve all got the same bits and pieces at the end of the day. So why do I seem to be less questioning of conservative values when they originate from the Arab world?
Maybe I’ve studied the culture in a more objective way than I’ve ever studied my own culture. Maybe I have a bit of nervous awe about Islam (which will no doubt fade once I’ve been living out there a while).
The main reason I think I am probably more forgiving over Arab conservatism is because I do actually respect some of their more fundamental values – family life, the institution of marriage (although I have no problem with this being recognised for gay people too), and the way women and children are protected and crimes are not tolerated.
Since I’ve been looking more closely at Islam and Arab culture, it’s kind of put a mirror up to Western culture and I’ve not really liked what’s been reflected back at me. Yes, I’m very liberal, but I also think our values seem to have slumped over recent decades. I said above that I really don’t mind flesh being on show, but I do resent the sexualisation of childhood and the way we still insist on treating women as sex objects, for example. And seeing what alcohol consumption is doing to British city centres and NHS services is utterly despairing.
My experience of Qatari culture has only really been in books, so I am sure my views will change when I get out there. I don’t know how much their values stand up to scrutiny – for example, scratch the surface of the repressed Catholic church and you will encounter plenty of hypocritical behaviour. Can religion really repress people successfully?
I have a feeling that this World Cup bid is going to lead to a bit more liberalism in Qatar, and hopefully that will be a good thing (and not increase tensions between Arab culture and the West). I just hope that Westerners coming to Qatar in 2022 are respectful and prove that the two cultures can exist happily side by side.