Culture clash? Conservative Qatar preps for World Cup party

In the past month, the Instagram accounts of fashion models and superstars have seen the sheikhdom of Qatar look like a glitzy party.

High-heeled designers descended on downtown Doha for exhibitions and fashion shows. Celebrities, including a prominent gay rights campaigner, took selfies on the hopping dance floor.

“Assalam ‘alaikum doha!” Dutch model Marpessa Hennink shouted on Instagram using the traditional Muslim salutation.

The response was swift. Qatar has vented its anger online over what it called a “dangerous and humiliating” prank, which it says threatens Qatar’s traditional values ​​ahead of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Arabic Hashtag It has become fashionable for days to stop destroying our values.

It underscores the tensions in Qatar as it prepares to welcome what is expected to be a massive crowd for the first World Cup in the Middle East.

“Our religion and customs prohibit obscene clothing and behavior,” Qatari Moheba Al Kheer said of the glamorous avant-garde artists and models who mingled with Qatari socialites in late October. “It’s normal to feel anxious when you meet people like this.”

During the World Cup, everyone was welcomed. Already, foreigners outnumber Qatari citizens to one in 10. Some Qataris are liberal and open to mixing with foreigners. Many are excited about this tournament. However, public drunkenness, Rights groups have raised concerns about how police will deal with violations by foreign fans, which violate Islamic laws that criminalize extramarital sex and homosexuality.

Once a dusty pearl harbor, Qatar, a small Persian Gulf nation, has been transformed into an ultra-modern hub following the natural gas boom of the 1990s. Foreigners are pouring into the country, including Western consultants and engineers and low-paid South Asian construction workers and cleaners.

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glass and steel skyscrapers; Luxury hotels and shopping malls soon sprouted up in the desert. In an effort to diversify away from a carbon-based economy, Qatar’s ruling family has bought stakes in everything from global finance and technology to French soccer club Paris Saint-Germain and London real estate.

The reigning king’s sister, Sheikha Al Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, has become one of the world’s most important art buyers. His mother, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al-Missned, has become a global style icon and has acquired several luxury brands, including Valentino.

But even as Qatar, the world’s wealthiest country per capita, looks to the West for inspiration, it faces pressure from within to stay true to its Islamic heritage and Bedouin roots. Qatar’s most powerful tribe hails from the landlocked interior of the Arabian Peninsula, where it was born into an ultra-conservative form of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism.

Qatar’s rulers have walked a tightrope between appeasing its conservative citizens and clans and exercising soft power as a major global player.

“Doha’s religious discourse to its citizens is very different from the liberal discourse of the West,” said 38-year-old Qatari Mohammed Al-Quwari. “It is impossible to always succeed in both.”

Qatar uses alcohol to relax; The spotlight — a prominent World Cup — that requires fans to create fun booths and adhere to FIFA rules that promote tolerance and inclusion — raises the stakes.

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In past years, the World Cup has turned the host nations into the world’s biggest party, where they drink and celebrate together. When emotions run high, audiences can be euphoric — or wild..

This will shake Qatar.Such behavior is deeply taboo and almost unheard of. Doha is famous for its nightlife. Despite rapid growth over the years, its entertainment offerings are thin and its public spaces limited.

With the country’s public decency laws and strict restrictions on the purchase and consumption of alcohol, some foreign fans are worried about how Qatar will deal with drunken thugs on the streets.

swearing making rude gestures; Dressing indecently and kissing in public can usually lead to prosecution in Qatar. Anti-gay sentiment runs deep in society, as elsewhere in the Arab world. A senior security official warned that rainbow flags could be confiscated. To protect fans from being attacked for promoting gay rights.

Audience concerns were evident on recent Reddit message boards: “How does the government know if someone is gay? “How bad is wearing shorts (can I get arrested)?” “Are people really getting arrested for saying negative things about Qatar on social media?”

Meanwhile, conservative Qataris worry about how much their society can bend to accommodate World Cup visitors. Doha is set to launch massive electronic music festivals. Authorities say they turn a blind eye to crimes like public drunkenness and only intervene in response to threats to property and public safety.

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“The World Cup will change the society, religion, I hope that morals and traditions will not be taken away,” said the 28-year-old Qatari, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

He found it comforting. Last month, the country’s advisory council made the promise. Authorities will “ensure the building of a strong society that adheres to its religion” and reject “excessive behavior that violates local prohibitions.”

But experts say Qatar’s small population has little choice but to accept whatever happens as the tournament fulfills the country’s King Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani’s vision to develop the country.

The emirate did not disagree. Qatar’s oil and gas wealth has produced a social contract in which citizens benefit from the welfare state to the grave and political rights from state paternalism.

“If Qatar wants to stay on the world map, it has to adhere to global norms and values,” said Andreas Krieg, assistant professor of security studies at King’s College London. “The government will take a stand on some issues and the population will be in order.”

Al-Kuwari is flamboyant.

“There is fear,” he said. “If the people think to criticize, they are waiting for imprisonment (prison).

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Follow Isabel DeBre on Twitter at www.twitter.com/isabeldebre



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