Lessons the West Can Learn From Qatar

I have always admired the Gulf states’ unique blend of modernity and tradition, and I think Qatar is probably the best example of this. If you travel to Qatar, you find modern buildings, architecture, and technology, but also a society which reveres and stays true to its culture and values. This is quite clearly contrary to Western society. Here, we too are surrounded by modern buildings and technology. Yet, many Westerners (especially young Westerners) hate the culture and traditions of their homelands, and have become obsessed with trying to overthrow status quo. In other words, rebellion has become the norm.

All the infighting and bickering over relatively insignificant issues such as pronouns and ‘microaggressions’ only serves to hinder our progress, and in order to develop as nations we must recognise that we share traditions and cultures which are far more important than a debate about someone’s feelings. This is also something which Qatar has done very well. Its current Emir, Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, is very passionate about preserving the country’s Islamic traditions and values, recognising that this is something the majority of Qataris have in common. Whilst this entails laws that I do not necessarily agree with, I nonetheless think that the West would benefit from the sense of identity and unity this creates. We in the West are so caught up in trying to look ‘cool’ and ‘advanced’ that we forget who we are and where we come from. Qatar doesn’t have this problem, and it’s time the West took a leaf or two from Qatar’s book.

This Qatari identity is cemented further by trust and confidence in the Emir. The belief that their leader is working for the good of the country is powerful, and has allowed Qatar to largely avoid anarchist or anti-establishment riots such as those that have been taking place in the USA recently. Whilst Qatar won’t hold its first national election until 2021 and is a monarchy, the people of Qatar know that it is in their best interests to stand with the leader of their country, not against them. As a young Qatari man told me, ‘All Qatari [people] love the Emiri to death’.

When I say I want a similar thing to happen in the West, I don’t mean that we should all agree with what our leaders say or do. However, we must support the person in charge whether or not we voted for them. Think of a country like a ship, and the leader of a country like the ship’s captain. If the captain fails, the ship sinks. Therefore, we must support our politicians, whether we like them or not. Supporting does not mean not criticising, it means that we should criticise constructively and in a way that will benefit society, not destructively in a way that will benefit oneself. Unfortunately, Western politics is full of greedy career politicians (on both sides) who put personal ambition over the future of their country. With our political climate the way it is, how can we ever expect to get anything done?

International relations are also a strength of Qatar’s. Qatar has shown that it is eager and willing to work with other countries both inside and outside the Gulf, but that cooperation with other nations cannot come at the cost of one’s own sovereignty. That is why Qatar held firm when several Gulf nations blockaded the country and made ridiculous demands such as the shutting down of Qatar’s national media network, Al Jazeera.

The countries making the demands (i.e. Saudi Arabia and its allies) disliked Qatar’s individualistic nature and level of influence, and alleged that Qatar had been supporting terrorist groups. Whilst Qatar said it had supported some Islamist groups and some groups linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, it denied helping groups linked to Al-Qaeda or ISIS. Qatar also reiterated the fact that it has assisted America’s War on Terror. In reality, however, the dispute had little to do with genuine concern about terrorism. The leaders of the Gulf states only disliked Qatar’s support of certain groups because they fought against dictators, and the Gulf monarchs were worried that, if the region developed a taste for overthrowing authoritarian leaders, it may soon be their turn to face the hangman’s noose. Yet instead of caving to the pressure from its former allies, the Qatari government worked to form new trading partnerships, develop its own industry, and demonstrate that no amount of pressure would scare the country into submission. A refreshing solution to a pressing problem.

Respect for sovereignty doesn’t really exist in Europe. The EU, for example, is a huge violation of the sovereignty of all its members, as unelected figures can both make and strike down laws of countries they have nothing to do with. That’s why I supported Brexit. International cooperation is great, but it cannot come at the cost of our dignity. In America, the obsession some politicians have with invading each and every country they don’t like is a sad and cruel way of expressing their disregard for the concept of sovereignty. President Trump stopped getting unnecessarily involved in other countries, but if Biden continues with Obama’s policies, the USA will once again play the expensive role of the world’s resident policeman.

The thing that I like most about Qatar, however, is its ability to balance seemingly contradictory ideas and actions. For example, it is a country which is firmly rooted in tradition and values, yet it is also one of the most modern and advanced countries in the world. Qatar has managed to maintain good relations with the US and the UK, but also with Iran and Turkey. It is a monarchy, but listens to its citizens more than most democracies do. It is a country which puts its people over petty ideological squabbles, and which won’t throw away its culture because it is ‘trendy’ to do so. As a result, Qatar has developed into a prosperous and united country with an efficient and popular government. The West meanwhile, is in possibly-terminal decline, is extremely divided, and has governments so inefficient that they can’t even decide what constitutes a ‘substantial meal’. If we are sincere about changing the current state the West finds itself in, we need to learn a thing or two from Qatar.

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