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Monday, May 27, 2024

Why is Franklin Foer’s “Cancel Qatar” problematic?

Qatar has responded to Franklin Foer's opinion piece "Cancel Qatar" published in The Atlantic last week. The written response piece by Jassim Al Thani addresses the misconceptions about Qatar 2022 and disapproves of Foer's zero sum fallacy. The response article by Jassim Al Thani was also published in The Atlantic.

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Jassim bin Mansour Al Thani, Media Attaché for the State of Qatar in the United States, has responded to Franklin Foer’s opinion piece, “Cancel Qatar” published last week in The Atlantic.

Al Thani penned down his response in The Atlantic on Tuesday titled, “Qatar Responds: Don’t Cancel the 2022 World Cup” in an attempt to deny fallacious claims made by Foer in his opinion piece.

Foer’s story, perhaps a possible PR-backed move, was published following FIFA Women’s World Cup’s final match won by the United States Women’s national soccer team by 2-0 against the Netherlands national football team on Sunday. In his article he argued that the money being invested in Qatar by FIFA, the football governing body, would be better invested in women’s football.

Qatar Responds

Al Thani, while responding to Foer’s illogical “zero-sum” fallacy has termed the opinion piece as “pile of dated arguments and failed logic”

Qatari government had also pledged recently to work towards a safer work environment for its migrant workers. In a bid to fulfill its pledge Qatar has made several reforms in its labor laws and regulations.

Foer backed his arguments based on exaggerated assumptions and misleading notions about Qatar 2022. He described World Cup 2022 hosted by Qatar as an “authoritarian regime’s vulgar vanity project” backed with “massive corruption”.

His allegations particularly stem from the on-going investigation of alleged corruption in the World Cup bid conducted in 2010. Michel Platini, former UEFA president and a former football maestro, was detained by authorities in France to investigate a lunch between Platini and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani (then crown prince) in 2010 ahead of World Cup bid voting.

However, after Platini’s release, the French probe authorities confirmed that the former UEFA president will not face any formal legal proceedings for the alleged charges of private corruption, influence peddling and conspiracy.

Read more: FIFA to ditch expansion plans; Qatar to host 32 teams for World Cup 2022

Jassim Al Thani in his written response too reaffirms Qatar’s meritorious win to host World Cup 2022. While disapproving the corruption argument put forward by Foer he urges the need to move forward from the stories made up to malign Qatar’s hosting bid. “Time and again, investigations and reports have cleared Qatar’s bid. We won the vote by the substantial margin of 14 to 8. It’s time to put those falsehoods away for good.” Al Thani wrote in his piece in The Atlantic.

Qatar 2022 an Opportunity to Improve not a “Moral Debacle”

Calling Qatar 2022 a “moral debacle”, Foer attempted to substantiate his unreasonable arguments by citing the case of human rights of migrant workers on football stadium construction sites. Jassim Al Thani argues that while Foer has selectively cited the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) report to back his argument he has blatantly ignored the recent development of ICTU’s endorsement of Qatar 2022 stating “In October 2017, Sharan Burrow, the ITUC general secretary, stated that “there is a clear government commitment to normalize industrial protections for migrant workers.””

Qatari government had also pledged recently to work towards a safer work environment for its migrant workers. In a bid to fulfill its pledge Qatar has made several reforms in its labor laws and regulations. Last month, Qatari government had introduced special summer working hours for outdoor work. The Qatari Ministry of Administrative Development, Labor and Social Affairs placed strict implementation mechanisms for both publicly owned and privately owned companies.

Qatar being the first Arab nation to host the global sport is criticized for several unreasonable factors in his piece.

Qatari authorities have however ensured country’s commitment towards labor reforms in a timely manner. The government issued a statement in February that the country’s labor laws were “a journey and not an end in itself” in a response to Amnesty International’s call for immediate action. A report published by Amnesty International claimed that migrant workers were being forced to do labor work.

In 2018, Qatari government won applause for its amendments in migrant laws pertaining to residency of the migrant workers. The said amendment permitted migrants to exit the country without having to apply for an exit visa. The International Labor Organization (ILO) of the United Nations (UN) welcomed Qatar’s step towards its long-term commitment to reform country’s labor laws.

Secretary-general of the World Cup 2022 organizing committee, Hassan al-Thawadi, welcomed UN’s response and reaffirmed Qatar’s commitment to work on unethical recruitment practices.”Unethical recruitment is a global issue and an area many countries struggle to manage. All too often, the very people who have left their home to provide for their families are the ones exploited,” he said.

Read more: Qatar introduces special working hours for open workplaces

Jassim Al Thani has further validated Qatar’s commitment to workers rights in his response article stating, “Qatar is deeply committed to the health, safety, and prosperity of expatriate workers, and this commitment does not have an expiration date. We will continue to build on our world-leading system, which protects workers from recruitment through arrival, during their time in Qatar, and until their safe return home to the families they support.”

Franklin Foer’s Arab Stereotyping and Racist Slurs

In his attempt to support “gender equality” in sports, Foer has blurted racist remarks in his piece for Qataris in particular and the Arabs in general. Qatar being the first Arab nation to host the global sport is criticized for several unreasonable factors in his piece.

At one point Foer has criticized Qatar for its “hot temperature”; a natural occurrence that is out of human control. He describes Qatar’s temperature as: “summers in Qatar are a pizza oven—with temperatures that spike at about 122 degrees, a physical hazard both for players and for the workers needed to build the stadiums.” – while the temperature mentioned by him is an exaggerated figure, he has ignored Qatari government’s initiative to introduce special working hours in summers for outdoor workers. He has also over-looked the huge investments being made to construct centrally air-conditioned stadiums. Instead, in an attempt to make his point, he calls Qatar a “desert” – a stereotypical and racist way of addressing Arab nations.

The Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani expressed his desire to see World Cup help bring a divided region back together.

Moreover, FIFA has moved Qatar 2022 to November, when temperatures are relatively lower, in an attempt to give the first Arab nation a fair chance to host the World Cup, but to that even Foer shows no signs of flexibility.

It seems as if Foer has a personal vendetta against Qatar and FIFA as he continues to voice his frustration despite the accommodating weather conditions:

“To accommodate this unsparing climate, the tournament will likely be played in November and December, right in the middle of the European football season. As a fan, I can’t stand this disruption of the calendar and rubbishing of tradition.”

Football for all

Franklin Foer’s article is perhaps a conscious effort to whitewash football and to restrict the game to American and European territories. He has ruled out the possibility of development and improvement in Arab states if more of such global events are conducted in the region.

Excluding Arab states, Qatar in particular, is perhaps a leading cause of growing inequality among nations of the international community. The ideas that Foer represents are xenophobic and come from a privileged and prejudiced position of power.

The problem of gender pay-gap cannot be attributed to a single state or region; it is a systematic problem that needs to be addressed through inclusivity.

Read more: Qatar to spend a whopping $6B on construction for FIFA 2022

Jassim Al Thani concludes his article on a positive and welcoming note, stating, “Foer seems to believe it is not possible for the world to advance the role of women in sports and put on an incredible 2022 FIFA World Cup. This is nonsense. Qatar is incredibly proud to be the host of the next World Cup, just as we are thrilled to host the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship, bringing the best women and men in track and field to Qatar for two weeks of intense competition.”

Last year the Qatar Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani expressed his desire to see World Cup help bring a divided region back together. He also hoped the event to be a source of pride for all Arab countries. The tiny peninsula continues to be under an economic and political blockade by its neighboring Gulf States since 2017.