On March 5 this year, a strange thing happened. Several countries withdrew their ambassadors from Qatar. They did so in protest at the country’s support for destabilising factions in the region, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, and its continued embracement of an extreme Islamist cleric, Sheik Yusuf al-Qaradawi, whose sermons are regularly broadcast on state television.
Al-Qaradawi has been banned from entering the United States since 1999, from the United Kingdom since 2008 and even Qatar’s great western ally France banned him in 2012. So more western interference, one might presume. We haven’t a great track record in the region, to be fair. If Qatar is rigidly committed to self-determination, it cannot end up worse off than Syria, Iraq or Afghanistan. Except it wasn’t the western ambassadors who went home.
The countries protesting about Qatari associations were Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates. If FIFA possessed alarm bells, and it is unlikely, they should be ringing now.Middle East politics is horribly complex. Some of the motivations here involve self-preservation as much as moral outrage. Al-Qaradawi believes the Muslim Brotherhood ‘righteous’ and as that organisation brought down the Mubarak government in Egypt, similar agitation is greatly feared in other Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE.
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