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by • November 19, 2022 • News, Opinion, Politics, War of the Words ColumnComments (0)86

It’s Bigger than Beer: Qatar’s Shabby Treatment of Soccer Fans and Workers is Disgraceful

Soccer Fans Shouldn’t Have to Adhere to Qatar’s Beliefs

Liberals in the West recoil at the idea of Christian Nationalism and theocracy as a form of government. Much of our activism is staunchly opposing zealots who want to impose their religious beliefs, oppress minorities and enshrine their faith into law. However, in the name of progressivism, we too often blindly accept the idea of a “Muslim World”.

We’d never accept the idea of a Christian World. The idea of a Jewish World or a Hindu World is anathema to our core values. Sure, there are societies where majorities choose to follow these religions, and there is nothing wrong with that. But the contemporary, ultraconservative Muslim World is impossible without extraordinary social control and repression. This terminology promotes the false assumption that everyone within the borders of a given country wants the government to choose their faith. If given options, however, people in all nations would choose a variety of different religious beliefs or no faith at all.

When progressives in the West fail to criticize Muslim nations that practice theocracy, gender apartheid, vast censorship and surveillance, religious tyranny, horrors perpetrated against LGBTQ people and authoritarian governance – they are not showing cultural sensitivity. Instead, they are unintentionally offering cover to fundamentalist regimes who are stifling the dreams and yearnings of their own citizens.

The Arab Spring protests and the brave citizens of Iran, who are now standing up to their Medieval Mullahs, shows the human spirit’s unquenching desire for liberty. It is our responsibility as liberals to support freedom movements worldwide. We must never fall for the well-worn trick of tyrants, where they conflate domination and degradation with culture or religion to which we must meekly bow.

The global clash between religious freedom and fascism is playing out in Qatar, which is hosting the World Cup soccer tournament. Twelve years ago, the wealthy Middle Eastern country bribed officials at the Federation International Football Association (FIFA) to “win” the 2022 games. In securing the bid, Qatar promised to protect LGBTQ fans, respect migrant workers and allow Budweiser to sell beer at soccer stadiums. The results have been disastrous, and the fallout is occurring on the international stage.

The conservative Islamic Kingdom has reneged on their promise and unilaterally banned the sale of beer at soccer games, even though Budweiser spent $75 million for a sponsorship. Last time I checked the hundreds of thousands of soccer fans streaming into Qatar didn’t convert to a conservative form of Islam. Qatar has a hell of a lot of nerve forcing fans to obey the rules of mosques they do not belong to. Sure, it’s their country, but they mislead FIFA and soccer fans in order to host the games. Had they initially promised to ban beer – the games would not be here.

If Qatar can’t respect the beliefs and consciences of other people, the nation isn’t mature enough to host international events. The decision is also an insult to their citizens – suggesting that the mere presence of a few temporary beer tents will magically transform a dry country into a nation of drunkards. Surely, the citizens of Qatar and its royal family can withstand the great allure of “The King of Beers” for a few weeks. Although, a cold brew in the scorching desert is rather tempting.

In a failed effort at damage control, FIFA President, Gianni Infantino, offered a ridiculous, embarrassing defense of Qatar.

“I think personally, if for three hours a day you cannot drink a beer, you will survive,” Infantino flippantly said.

The point isn’t survival, but pleasure. Fans spent large sums of money to enjoy the World Cup, and historically, drinking booze with friends is part of the fun. It’s up to each individual to shape their World Cup experience, without an oppressive Nanny State making decisions for them. One can also survive a Grateful Dead concert without marijuana, but it’s not advisable. It’s about the freedom to maximize the moment, without being told what to do. The solution is simple: If Qatari citizens believe beer is sinful, don’t drink it. End of story.

Qatari leaders are trying to spin the justifiable critiques as racism, rather than a reaction to their radicalism. Infantino leaned into this false narrative by invoking history.

“I think for what we Europeans have been doing around the world for the last 3,000 years, we should be apologizing for the next 3,000 years, before starting to give moral lessons,” Infantino said.

Yes, it’s true that the Europeans were quite horrible and exploited or destroyed civilizations across the globe. If they want to apologize at the World Cup, I’m okay with that. However, the question of historical apologies, in no way justifies Infantino shamefully serving as an apologist for Qatar’s intolerant actions and human rights abuses.

To make the World Cup a reality, Qatar brought in migrant workers to build infrastructure from some of earth’s poorest nations. They horribly exploited these helpless workers, which included intense labor with long shifts in the desert heat. The New York Times reports that, “thousands of workers have died in that period” [of building], from heat exhaustion, kidney failure and heart attacks.

In a truly outrageous comparison, Infantino compared his own life as a redheaded child of immigrants in Switzerland to the harsh treatment of gays in the Middle East. Perhaps, I’ve overlooked the news stories, but I can’t recall the last time I saw a ginger swinging from a rope in Geneva or watched a red head pushed off the Matterhorn summit for merely existing. Those are the types of barbaric punishments LGBTQ people still endure in parts of Africa and the Middle East.

FIFA should never have brought the World Cup to an unevolved country with no respect for other cultures, religions or human rights. Qatar “won” the games with illegal bribes, but the real criminal activity is occurring now with the shabby treatment of soccer guests and abuse of migrants.

Liberals should assertively and proudly defend our values and no longer give a pass to countries that treat minorities like subhumans and invoke religious supremacy to dominate those who don’t share their beliefs. We don’t tolerate such unacceptable behavior from our Religious Right at home, nor should we bury our heads in the desert sand when it occurs in countries like Qatar.

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