“I feel Qatari today. I feel Arab today. My current mood is African. I feel gay today. I feel unable today. Gianni Infantino, the president of FIFA, said in an enraged tirade on Saturday that he felt like a migrant worker today and compared his situation to that of marginalized groups.
His apparent sympathy for Qatar was motivated by the barrage of criticism the country has received in the Western media for hosting the competition.
However, he asserted that it is hypocritical of the West to lecture non-Westerners on morality.
On the eve of the World Cup, those remarks gained widespread attention and sparked a lot of ire and mockery. But they had a strong resonance for a lot of Muslims and Arabs.
Omar Alsaadi, a 21-year-old Qatari, told CNN that Infantino vocalized “from a Western point of view” what many of his compatriots have felt about being targets of racism.
The controversies surrounding the tournament, such as the Gulf state’s treatment of migrant workers, its policies regarding LGBTQ people, and its stringent social restrictions, have received more attention in Western media coverage in the months leading up to the tournament than the sport itself. The BBC, Britain’s public broadcaster, decided not to broadcast the opening ceremony on television in favor of covering criticism of the host country. According to the BBC, the ceremony was indeed broadcast on their video-on-demand service.
The World Cup this year is undoubtedly unique from all others. It is the first time a Muslim nation has hosted the event, and Qatar has done much to give it a distinctly Arab and Muslim flavor.
A female singer wearing a traditional burqa, a type of face covering that has been outlawed in several European nations, opened the Bedouin-themed opening ceremony on Sunday. Additionally, it cited a verse from the Quran that spoke of how God divided people into “nations and tribes” so that they could get to know one another.
Social media reports claim that some hotels in the nation provide visitors with QR codes to learn more about Islam and that Muslim volunteers have been educating tourists about Islamic clothing.
Attendees are aware that Islamic symbols are prominent in Qatar. Muslims on social media were outraged by a French journalist’s on-air joke about there being “a lot of mosques” in the nation.
The Times of London on Monday said “Qataris are unaccustomed to seeing women in Western dress in their country” in a photo caption that was later deleted after being flagged on social media. Around 87% of the country’s population of 2.9 million is made up of expatriates, many of whom are Western.
However, some in the Western media have denounced stereotypes and purported biases. The recent coverage of Qatar, according to MSNBC host Ayman Mohyeldin, demonstrates “the depths of Western prejudice, performative moral outrage, and, perhaps most significantly, gross double standards.”
Articles defending Qatar’s right to host the competition have also appeared in The Economist and The New York Times. An essay published in The Times of London claimed that criticism of Qatar was “laced with hypocrisy.”
While some of the coverage surrounding Qatar in the West has reinforced unfavorable stereotypes about the Arab Muslim world, James Lynch, director of the human rights organization FairSquare and a former British diplomat in Qatar, claimed that most of the criticism has been “fair and reasonable.”
He added that Qatar’s women and LGBTQ people “face serious discrimination and repression, both in law and practice,” and that workers there continue to “face harsh, abusive working conditions and severe exploitation, with domestic and construction workers among those most at risk.”
Those who object to how Qatar has been covered by Western media counter that other nations with dubious human rights records don’t face the same scrutiny when hosting international sporting events.
Some of the recent rhetoric surrounding Qatar, according to Maryam AlHajri, a Qatari researcher at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, indicates that some Western critics have been more interested in feeding into an “orientalist discourse”—language intended to impose Western worldviews—than human rights.