By Babayo Sule, PhD
The 2022 Qatar FIFA World Cup is no doubt a beginning of a fresh era in intercultural relationships globally because of the indelible marks of perception, dynamism, fresh vigours, advancement of a new model and, most importantly, the introduction of a new style of reception, fanfare and farewell from the host to the world. Hosting a gargantuan event like FIFA World Cup is certainly a herculean task that financial muscles and political influence alone cannot earn. It takes beyond the lobby, indefatigable consultations, display of economic prowess, commitment, smart strategies that will outsmart competitors and, above that, a clandestine promise of delivery and reliability. Of course, Qatar surmounted all these obstacles and won the hosting. Beyond that, the World Cup was successfully organised, hosted, done and dusted most sublimely and fashionably way to some groups, perhaps.
Not long ago, some Western scholars, including Fukuyama (1996), Huntington (1996) and Lewis (1992), struggled hard to convince the world that the Western ideology, civilisation and system are forever the best and can never be competed with or matched in any circumstances. But for the critical counterattacks of the likes of Sa’id (2005), Harun Yahaya, Nefeily (2002) and some others, the Fukuyama-led cultural clash nearly succeeded in defeating the world to surrender to the almighty West and despair from any form of competition. Fortunately, the Sa’id-led counterattacks made us believe that cultural clash or advancing it is an act of ignorance that can be suppressed with dialogue and better understanding built on tolerance and respect. The approach of Qatar to the 2022 FIFA World Cup practically convinced us to discard the former school and hold firm on the latter.
When I learnt that the small country of Qatar, with just a population of 3 million, spent a breath-taking $200 billion, I cautioned myself to wait patiently and see what the country is after because my inner ego told me that the country is definitely up to something otherwise it will be crazy enough to believe this embezzlement amidst the myriads of squalor, deprivation, abject penury, natural disasters and other sufferings emanating from armed conflicts in the Muslim-dominated states. Qatar should have diverted this huge amount of money for humanitarian intervention in the most affected states, but my curiosity continues to deter me from concluding without seeing the actual intention. At last, it is revealed glowingly most passionately and soothingly to the global Ummah that Qatar invested in a modern and strategic Jihad.
Football is arguably the most unifying festival or even phenomenon globally, more than anything. Even religion today is not hypnotising like football, especially among youth. Take Nigeria, for example. Divisions are sharp and threatening to national unity in virtually all matters, even that of critical national importance like security, except for football. In an employment to strategic parastatals or apportion of a political position, no section of the country will tolerate the composition and the outlook of the national team, the darling Super Eagles. But in football, Ahmed Musa can score against Argentina in the World Cup, celebrate by prostrating before Allah (SWT), one of the major pillars of five congregational daily prayers and a major point of bringing one closer to his Creator, the Hausa/Fulani, Igbos, Yorubas, all the more than 400 ethnic groups, the Muslims, Christians, ritualists, animists and the North and South will unanimously celebrate the goal without minding exactly the mode and pattern of the celebration of the player. The same thing is applicable if a Christian player scores and celebrates using his religious signals and symbols. But for football, what can be tolerated that way in our mother country? Should a Minister prostrate in front of a national broadcast to celebrate the country and the achievement of his Ministry, trending impending insults among divided Nigerians will take weeks actively?
For Qatar, the small country lured the globe to its culture and way of using football as a tool. The country satisfactorily met all the requirements and fulfilled all the datelines, resources, infrastructures, provisions and all that is needed to host a successful World Cup. On several visits, the FIFA team always expressed its satisfaction with the level of preparations and provisions made by Qatar. However, some days before the commencement, Qatar boldly rose its head before the world and declared that it is a country of faith, culture, values and a system that must be respected without any compromise. Alcoholism in the stadiums, gay and other amoral attitudes are banned throughout the event, and any violation will surely attract a sanction according to the laws of Qatar governed by the Shari’ah system. Instantly, the belief that the West has in cultural clashes and the arrogant display of the ethnocentric chauvinism of superiority surfaced.
The Western media pounced on Qatar, and some even threatened to either boycott the event or Qatar must be forced to rescind its decision and guidelines for attending the event. Qatar stood firm and pledged never to compromise its stand on the ground that Qatar respects all cultures, and anywhere the citizens of the country visit, they respect and adhere to the guidelines, principles and laws of the land; then, why should her own be different? In what ways is any culture superior or advanced or super enough to bulldoze and overshadow the host culture? Fortunately, the FIFA President, being honest, frank and fair, supported Qatar fully and chided the West for, according to him, ‘its hypocrisy, intolerance, arrogance and immorality. Instead of the West apologising to the world for its more than 300 years of plunder and arrogance, it is parading tits trademark again’. The Western media, unrelenting, resorted to blackmail that the FIFA officials were bribed to grant Qatar the hosting, and the FIFA is bribed to approve the preparations and accept the conditions of Qatar without any protest.
The West, which mesmerised and dazzled the world with its modern scientific and technological advancement, effervescent skyscrapers, efficient system, and continuous innovation, failed the simple test of tolerance, respect and morality. The moral bankruptcy appears disappointing. Sayyid Qutb earlier berated the West for its handicap in a moral view. He expressed his wonders in seeing the miraculous feat achieved by the West in technology and development but rebuked them for moral emptiness, cultural intolerance, intellectual fallacies of distorting Islamic culture and values to him and bestiality exhibited by humankind in their societies. The FIFA President himself chastised the West for its sheepish behaviour and the display of immorality to the level of bestial nuptiality. The West arrogantly believed that it had the monopoly of setting the agenda for even cultural perception. The long-term monopoly in the political and economic control of the world intoxicated the West to believe that it must always determine the standard for anything, and it must have its way. But Qatar, a small but mighty country, challenged this view and put a sudden stop to it in style.
Qatar designed a Jihad model and unveiled it where all the attentions are. They say, ‘hit them where it hurts’, and Qatar hit where it hurts, but it soothes many. The opening ceremony sent waves of meticulous fantasy and a display of a fabulous enigma of people that aspired to differ in all ramifications from the acclaimed normal norm. Instead of the noisy fanfare, thunderous jamboree and a competition to display nudity and craziness of masquerades, the environment of the opening ceremony was ensconced in a serene clime with the melodious recitations of the Glorious Quran and a lullaby of the romantic Arab scents and marvellous dressing. The spectators silently listened and were hypnotised by the beauty and eloquence of the Qur’anic recitation.
Instantly, the campaign of calumny, blackmail and propaganda swung into action in the West. The BBC declined to air the opening ceremony. The major Western media embarked on futile and baseless negative reporting. For instance, the Independent of November 21st 2022, wrote a piece mocking Qatar, the host, titled ‘Qatar World Cup defeat proves there are some things in sport you can’t pay for’. Another article in the Independent in the date titled ‘Qatar’s opening World Cup impression slips into disaster on and off the pitch’.
In another propaganda, CNN reports in an article on 20th November 2022, ‘Qatar makes World Cup in a debut controversial tournament of firsts’. The 24th November 2022 article by the Independent titled ‘What on earth is Morgan Freeman doing in Qatar? Queried why Morgan Freeman should be in Qatar. In the assumption of the Western media, Qatar spent lavishly to win. When and where World Cup opening match is won by the host? Morgan Freeman is seen either as too civilised to be in Qatar to attend a Qur’anic opening ceremony or irrelevant. The motive of Qatar is entirely a different ball game. Qatar has won the World Cup in the eyes of the fair-minded, culturally-tolerant but specifically, the Muslim world. The Jihad exhibited a moderate contemporary approach, and the resistance against the imposition of alien cultures to then host succeeded in opening the eyes of the imperialised and the international relations and international system will, of course, never be the same again.
Other resistance to neo-colonialism and new imperialism are unfolding courtesy of what Qatar did. Peacefully but assertively, Qatar altered the shape of the global political economy for keen observers. Even Huntington must revisit his clash of civilisations and rethink the remaking of world order beyond his only perceived clash.
The damages that the West self-inflicted in the effort to spoil the World Cup show in Qatar can take many decades or centuries to restore. For example, they are enlightening the world to resist any culture that it is not comfortable with, starting with their forceful imposition. They may continue to lure and influence the world using economic leverage and threats, but countries that are self-conscious, like Qatar, which internally recycled its economic buoyancy, will resist and counter. African states may take a lesson or continue to be humiliated by the world at will. The West, in its intolerance, informed the world that the crusade for human rights, democratisation and other dangerous exports (Blum, 2013) might be resisted, and it is a setback to its agenda of ruling the world using institutions and agreements.
Another lesson the world learnt from the weird attitude exhibited by the West in Qatar is to draw back and resist any attempt to denigrate or demean any culture, value, faith or nation. It is a scientific gateway for many global policymakers and key players to justify when pushing an agenda or tackling it. The worse of the scenarios is the moral emptiness and sheepish attitude of some countries and their football teams. The sport, as if it were a living organism, showed them an early exit to save the world from their embarrassment and allowed the serious-minded ones to battle it out.
One fascinating scenario in Qatar that will outlive the tournament and qualify the event to be extraordinary is that the vulgarity of Qatar is not leaving any stone unturned in its newly discovered Jihadism. The likes of Dr Zakir Naik were offered the opportunity to display their prowess in Da’awah, and the accommodation was designed to introduce the Islamic process of cleansing from impurity, a discovery that leaves many visitors dazzled and interested in Islamic teaching. The calls to prayer, display of Qur’anic verses from all angles of the city and Prophetic golden words all revealed exactly what Qatar spent its money for and not what the Independent article misperceived or tried to push deliberately. The final or closing ceremony after Argentina won the Cup was exotic. African musicians, including the Nigerian Davido, were invited but were confined to the World Cup tune prepared by a Qatari singer. The best player, Lionel Messi, was decorated in the regalia of the most valuable Arabian dress instead of the obscured juju and the usual spray of liquor and other madness that have no place in most civilisations but are being pushed down the throats of the communities by the imperial powers.
The World Cup has come and gone, but its memory will forever relish our minds and in what Qatar did, ‘Verily, in this is a Sign: but most of them do not believe’ (Q26:8). Qatar has opened a gateway for other world countries to liberate themselves from the encumbrances of new imperialism and neo-colonialism that is used to push the imperialism (Nkrumah, 1965). The small country has presented a fashionable and peaceful model of Da’awah that will strategically counter propaganda and a model of Jihad devoid of terrorism. It is a kind of Jihad that is difficult to provide a vacuum for conspiracy or damaging insults. Qatar may face stereotyping and a campaign of blackmail, and other Arabs and Islamic states may not smell the opportunity of hosting the World Cup for the next century or more, provided the West continues to control the world, but world countries can now develop the effrontery to counter abuse and disrespect of their faiths and cultures and may advance to ward off imperialism. African continent may restore its umbilical cord with Latin America and the Caribbean to re-establish a strong, surviving and successful Pan-Africanism. Qatar, in our eyes, is a blessed land of the righteous that present a model of liberation. God bless the country and the tournament!
Babayo Sule (PhD) wrote from the Department of Political Science, Faculty of Humanities Management and Social Sciences, Federal University Kashere Gombe, Nigeria. He can be reached via email@example.com.