Qatar slams Europe rights storm over World Cup as ‘racism’

Guards line up outside Doha’s 974 Stadium on Tuesday ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which begins on November 20.—AFP

DOHA: Faced with a storm of European criticism ahead of the start of the World Cup, Qatar stepped up its diplomatic and media response on Tuesday which included threats of “legal” action to defend its name.

With five days to go until the opening match, Qatar’s World Cup chief organizer said attacks on the Gulf state had been launched because it “competited on an equal footing and snatched” the World Cup from rival bidders. A senior Qatar Football Association official called European critics “enemies”.

In an interview, Qatar’s Labor Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri said “racism” was behind the attack on his country’s record. “They don’t want to allow a small country, an Arab country, an Islamic country, to host the World Cup,” he said.

Facing criticism over its treatment of foreign workers and women’s rights and the LGBTQ community, the wealthy Gulf state has long used the case that everyone is ‘welcome’ to the World Cup and said opponents acted in bad faith.

Official says Doha is exploring legal options to ensure those responsible for the country’s defamation are held accountable

The tone has changed in recent weeks, evidenced by comments by the Emir, Sheikh Tamim Hamad Al Thani, who told the national legislature on October 25 that Qatar had faced an “unprecedented and growing campaign ” which smacks of the “double standard”.

Three days later, Germany’s ambassador to Doha was summoned following comments by his country’s interior minister questioning Qatar’s hosting of the World Cup.

Qatari media spoke of a “systematic conspiracy” by European rivals.

The Al-Sharq newspaper castigated the “arrogance” of certain European countries.

During a recent European tour, Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al Thani said in media interviews that there was “a lot of hypocrisy in these attacks”.

“They are peddled by a very small number of people, in 10 countries at most, who are not at all representative of the rest of the world,” he told Le Monde without naming the actors.

“The enemy is a blessing”

Sheikh Ahmed bin Hamad Al Thani, a member of the executive of the Qatar Football Association, said Al-Sharq in an interview published on Tuesday: “For me, the presence of the enemy is a blessing and not a curse, because it can push you to do your job in the best possible way.”

After a recent report by the British media on the hacking of opponents of the organization of the World Cup in Qatar, a government official warned: “Qatar will not sit idly by in the face of such baseless allegations, and all the legal options available to us are explored to ensure those responsible are held to account.

The bitterness expressed in some newspaper editorials is beginning to show in the comments of some officials.

Hassan Al Thawadi, Secretary General of the Qatar Organizing Committee, said AlJazeera television that anonymous opponents in the Gulf State were jealous of its accommodation.

“The campaigns are due to the fact that Qatar is an Arab country that was able to compete on an equal footing and snatch the organization of the tournament.”

He said the attacks were based on “the stereotypical image of the Arab world, which is one of the reasons we fought to host the World Cup, to change the stereotypical idea about Arabs.”

A European diplomat in Doha said the Qatari government had reached “the end of the line with the critics”. “They blame us even though very little comes from governments,” the diplomat added.

Posted in Dawn, November 16, 2022