February 2023Opinion

Is Western Criticism of Qatar a Reflection of Colonialist Thought?

Eman Fatima
Staff Writer

When Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, several soccer fans and people around the world were disappointed, given that Qatar is responsible for violating many human rights. Others, however, responded that the West is hypocritical in its criticism since they have been responsible for human rights violations as well. There is no doubt that the West tends to critique the countries in the East. It makes it easier for the West to judge when they hold power worldwide and have gotten away with many controversial and questionable actions domestically and internationally. However, Qatar should be held accountable and criticized like any other Western or Eastern country.

Expatica reports that Qatar is a “fascinating cultural mosaic and home to the second-largest ex-pat community in the world.” Its culture is already fascinating to foreigners, and the economy has flourished throughout these decades. But unfortunately, the beauty of the culture becomes less significant when one learns about Qatar’s dark and dehumanizing present. 

One of the controversies is how the migrants in Qatar were treated like slaves. The Guardian indicates that the treatment resulted in the death of at least 6,500 migrants since the World Cup was awarded to Qatar in 2010. The brutal conditions for the migrant workers and how little they were paid were cause for criticism. These critiques are said to be hypocritical considering the working system in the United States.  Workers are also exploited and not paid well, and the working conditions are unsafe. The  reports that modern-day U.S. slavery exists in the form of trafficking and forced labor. A lot of workers in the U.S. who work as janitors, cooks, and cleaners are hired from Iraq and Afghanistan. But unfortunately, these issues in the U.S. are lesser known than what is happening in Qatar. Yet, just because one issue is getting more coverage, that does not mean what Qatar has done should be ignored. To dehumanize humans to the point that they die while working is a massive violation of human rights. Human rights and worker’s rights violations should be condemned whether in the Global South or in the West.  

The other criticism is over how Qatar treats members of the LGBTQ community and women. According to VOX, there exist laws prohibiting sexual relationships between people of the same sex, and “LGBTQ Qataris continue to report widespread police harassment and intimidation.” Though, VOX reports, organizers of the event have stated that LGBTQ fans would be “welcome and safe,” those criticizing Qatar and the World Cup’s organizers continue to be wary. 

Some people have argued in response to this controversy that the West should not enforce its beliefs on others. In some ways, this is arguably correct, as the West is known for pushing its ideologies worldwide. But to assume that LGBTQ people and their rights are a Western ideology is an ignorant statement, considering there are many queer and transgender people in the Middle East that have to live secretly in a scary world where they could be killed for their identity. Qatar is undeniably a part of this scary world. Others argue that homophobia is not limited to Qatar; it still exists in the West despite all the hard work of activists for decades.  

Some critiques of Qatar appear colonialist and hypocritical, but that does not change the fundamental truth about Qatar: it is a dystopian petrostate built on slave labor where migrant workers, women, non-muslims, and queer people are treated as less than human. The West may have its own problems, but its critiques of Qatar’s wealthy elites whose houses are built and staffed by an oppressed underclass of noncitizen workers are no less warranted.

Image courtesy of Republic of Korea, Flickr

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