Is Racism to Blame for Criticism of the Qatar World Cup?
In the face of an enormous corruption scandal and human rights concerns regarding migrant worker deaths, FIFA is increasingly under pressure to strip Qatar of its right to hold the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The Qatari government has repeatedly defended itself, claiming that a large part of the criticism is due to racism and prejudice, of anti-Arab sentiment. Is anti-Islamic sentiment in some part to blame for the increased media attention on Qatar’s World Cup bid?
There is no denying that Qatar’s treatment of it’s migrant workers is appalling and that FIFA has been proven to be a notoriously corrupt organization. However, these are all not new facts. There may be a measure of prejudice behind what may be seen as an organized campaign to stop Qatar from hosting the 2022 World Cup.
The reasons given by Qatar’s critics all make sense. Qatar is much smaller than any other country that has ever hosted the FIFA World Cup. Qatar also does not have a strong league or any kind of long-standing tradition. Since the World Cup takes place in the Summer, when the heat in Qatar is extreme, this would prove as an incredible health hazard to the players and spectators. One of the most important reasons that Qatar has faced criticism is the way it treats its foreign, migrant workforce. According to reports from Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and other human rights organizations, these workers face terrible conditions and forced labor and mistreatment is widespread.
The Qatari public and government remain defiant. They have denied mistreatment of workers repeatedly, claiming that safeguards have been put into place since Qatar won the bid. However, serious, unbiased observers have noted that there has been little, if any progress. Although Qatar has vowed to take several steps to protect the lives of migrant workers, they have not taken any concrete steps. The highly publicized investigation into FIFA’s corruption, the arrest of high ranking officials, and the resignation of FIFA’s president, Sepp Blatter, has increased this sense that Qatar is being made a scapegoat for endemic corruption in that organization.
Preliminary reports investigating Qatar’s bid for the World Cup have had a mixed reception. Qatari officials have claimed that these reports exonerate them. However, it does not look good when one considers that the investigator responsible for the report resigned due to the fact that his report was mischaracterized. There are numerous instances of racism and anti-Islamic sentiment in the way many issues in the Middle East are handled or characterized by the West. It is unfortunate that the Qatari government feels the need to defend its appalling treatment of its workers hiding behind allegations of racism. The best way to protect themselves from these allegations would be to use their considerable financial assets to protect their workers rather than to continue to play the victim.