The World Cup is now well underway and so far it has lacked the real excitement of previous tournaments. Apart from when Argentina lost to Saudi Arabia. Everyone took great joy in that result as historically, we are supposed to cheer anyone apart from Argentina or Germany. At the same time, everyone instantly forgot all about Saudi Arabia’s poor human rights record and celebrated the result. How odd!
Which brings up back to the topic at the start of the World Cup that led to none of us being able to watch the opening ceremony. Someone at the BBC thought it was more important that pundits, who are being paid thousands to be in Qatar, talk to us about LGBTQ+ rights.
Human rights has been discussed enough now. Most people would agree that they do not agree with Qatar’s laws, but it is what it is and a football tournament is not going to change that overnight. Whether we decide to watch the opening ceremony on TV or not is not going to change the outcome either. The World Cup will continue and in about four weeks time, everyone will leave Qatar and the country will continue with their own laws as they have done for many years.
What has been interesting is that some Qataris have spoken out online. There has been a range of opinions, from those who want LGBTQ+ laws changed, to those who have challenged Western opinion and request that visitors follow the laws of the country they are visiting. Which is hard to disagree with!
If you go to a friend’s house and they ask you to remove your outdoor shoes before you walk on their new cream carpet, you tend to oblige. You may not like taking your shoes off, especially if you have a whacking great big hole in your sock that exposes your gangrenous big toe. As a visitor you do have a choice. The choice is you risk losing your friendship if you keep your shoes on and tread mud into their brand new shag pile or you choose not to go into their house. Or you comply with their wishes.
And that is how it works in Qatar. If you do not agree with their rules, you choose not to enter their country. It is the same across most Arab states and the Middle East. Unfortunately, it is not something that we do particularly well in the UK. Is it because we are too welcoming, too liberal or just too soft?
We enforce our laws to a point, but we tend to allow visitors to do what they want. All religions are welcomed. We allow mosques to be built, we allow over 200 Muslim schools to open, we allow Hinduism, Sikhism, Judaism and Buddhism alongside our official religion of Christianity.
We are tolerant to crime too. When foreign nationals are convicted, we are especially soft in terms of punishments. A TV programme the other day showed a Romanian national stealing hundreds of pounds of perfume from a shop in Oxford Street. They were geared up for stealing, with a deliberate hole cut into their coat to hide the hidden loot. Another person from Bulgaria was caught with hundreds of pounds of stolen shopping. They were given a caution and sent on their way, undoubtedly to go and repeat the same offence in a different shop.
Somewhere in Birmingham an illegal migrant was found working in a Chinese takeaway shop. Rather than detain the person, they were bailed to return at a later date. At which point the person disappeared never to be seen again.
It is about time that the UK enforces its laws to visitors. If you are a foreign national and you are convicted of a crime, once you have served your time, you should be asked to leave and not come back.
The person has chosen to break our laws and been convicted. They have walked their muddy outdoor shoes all over our carpet. In doing so, they have rejected our friendship and are no longer welcome to come in. Despite your views on Qatar and similar places, they do have some things right. Perhaps we need to appreciate that we are not always correct. It is also a time to look in the mirror and reflect as much on what we do as much as what others do.