QATAR is the first Arab and Muslim-majority country in the Middle East that is hosting a major international sports event, like the football World Cup, which is being played out these days under the umbrella of the International Federation of Association Football (FIFA).

After winning the unprecedented honour of hosting the world’s most expensive, biggest single-sport event, Qatar constructed a number of well-designed, well-structured and well-equipped stadiums across the country. The associated facilities, as has been acknowledged by the world body as well, are fantastic; first-world fantastic.

And, yet, there are people with agendas who are out to create one controversy or the other. In India, for instance, the media has gone miles out of the way to be critical of how the opening ceremony was planned and who was invited to it. The focus has been on the ‘use’ of a global event to spread the word of Islam. At any mega event anywhere in the world, the focus is on local culture, which is only logical, and nobody raises a voice against it. But recitation from the Holy Quran seems to have irritated the Indian media a bit too much. More than the ceremony or its orientation, I guess, the media reaction was reflective of the trends prevailing in India when it comes to dealing with either Islam or Muslims at large.

Also, some of the fans, who have travelled from across the world to Qatar to support their favourite teams, have been spending time being critical of cultural issues instead of being supportive and praising the arrangements. As far as these fans are concerned, the peninsular Arab country deserves international backlash for asking people not to wear the rainbow symbols, representing a particular community, in World Cup venues. Additionally, football players have also been directed not to wear the kind of armbands that have the message promoting the said community’s agenda.

Qatar is an Islamic country, and has its legal, social and cultural frameworks in line with the state’s orientation. People have no issues when governments else-where ban hijab and such other symbols of Islamic way of life, but they have a problem applying the same principle to Qatar. This is hypocrisy pure and simple.

It is very clear that Qatar is well within its right to expect a certain set of behaviour from visitors just as other countries do. The Qatari government is bound to preserve the sanctity of its Constitution and laws. Even before the global tournament began, there were voices about labour rights in the country. The arguments were so absurd that even FIFA had to come out publicly and remind the West of its own shameful past.

People across the globe should show respect for the host country and enjoy the games that are being played in a wonderful atmosphere. People watch and follow sports for enter-tainment, not for unnecessary controversies.

NajeebUllah Durrani
Loralai

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2022

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