Sunday 20 November 2022

The criticism of Qatar is hypocritical


Qatar is criticised for being different to Western Europe, the United States and other democracies. The criticism is grossly hypocritical. No one criticises the human rights record of Djibouti, nor how it treats homosexuals, because there isn’t going to be a football tournament in Djibouti and anyway few of us could point it out on the map.

But the hypocrisy goes deeper than this. Why is Qatar the way that it is? Why does it treat women differently to men? Why can’t homosexuals get married like they can in Britain? Anyone would think that it is simply some odd quirk of Qatar that it has laws and customs that make it more difficult to buy beer and spirits than in Aberdeen, that it has a singular lack of well attended churches and rather few gay pride marches.

But Qatar is similar to the vast majority of other countries Islamic countries for a very simple reason. It is Islamic.  

There are differences between Muslim countries. Some are very strict like Saudi Arabia or Iran others are less strict like Turkey or Morocco. Qatar isn’t Turkey, but neither is it Iran. You can buy a drink in Qatar in certain hotels and restaurants. You can wear a bikini in the hotel. If you behave yourself and act sensibly you can probably have a good time there on holiday if you are rich enough.

But whatever the level of strictness in an Islamic country the rules and customs which differ from ours are derived from Islam. There isn’t a single rule or custom in Qatar that is being complained of that cannot be justified as either coming from the Quaran, the Hadith, or Sunnah and the various traditions of interpreting these. What is dishonest and hypocritical about the criticisms of Qatar is that it is presented as if this were not also a criticism of Islam.

Qatar is a theocracy because Islam thinks that religion ought to be a matter of law. It has laws about human sexual behaviour because it thinks that sex outside the marriage of a man and a woman is a sin that should be punished by law. It has laws about what people can eat and drink because Islam believes that we should be compelled to follow these rules. It punishes people who cease to believe in Islam because it is commanded to by its sacred texts.

The strictest Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran follow the rules of Islam most closely. Others countries like Qatar are willing to bend or even break some rules at least for foreigners. But when Qatar allows foreigners to drink beer it doesn’t change the rule about alcohol. It still thinks that it is wrong to drink beer. The most liberal Islamic countries still believe exactly the same as the strictest. There hasn’t been a reformation. There hasn’t been anything like the Western theological tradition that analysed the Biblical texts accepting some rejecting others. There has been no reform such as happened in many western churches where teachings about homosexuality were revised. Islam is pretty much the same as it always was.

There are things I rather admire about Islam. Muslims frequently have a very strong faith. They believe literally in what the Quran and Islamic tradition teaches. They follow that teaching even when it would be easier not to. I would not like to fast nor drink even water during the day during Ramadan. I would not like to have to pray four times a day whether it was convenient or not. I have always thought it incredible how Islam spread from Mecca all the way to Indonesia. This is clearly a very powerful faith.

But I would not like to live in an Islamic society, because I think religion ought to be a matter of choice rather than a matter of law. Who am I to tell someone else what to believe or to force him to follow religious rules?  If Muslims don’t want to drink beer or if they think that homosexuality is a sin that is there right, but why force others to live as they do? I believe that so long as you harm no one else you can do what you please. Muslims don’t believe this. This is why liberalism and Islam are incompatible, because liberalism is incompatible with a religion being the law.

The reason I think as I do is because Christianity is not a religion of law. Jesus picked the grain on the Sabbath and changed everything including the future.  Ultimately it is for this reason that the West developed in the way that it did. Tolerance comes from Christianity allowing us to choose to believe and choose to follow religious rules. From there we in time made Christian rules also a matter of choice. If you don’t like the bits in the Old Testament about Sodom and Gomorrah then skip them. If you think that Jesus didn’t really mean what he said about marriage, then you no doubt know better than him. If you think that God did not create us male and female, then no doubt you know better than God too.

What we have discovered in the past decades is Christianity is negotiable. If society demands women priests the church must have them, if society demands tolerance of homosexuality or transgender Christianity will adapt. Jesus said go and sin no more. But now the woman about to be stoned would say today that her sin in fact is not a sin and the church would agree.

At the same time belief in Christianity has collapsed. Traditional Christian morality about sex and marriage or indeed about anything else simply no longer exists in Britain. It is a dead issue like belief in Zeus and Nietzsche in the sense that he meant has been proved right.

So, from the Qatari point of view, the critics are really saying “If thou wilt be perfect, go and give up all thy beliefs and laws, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me” But the Qatari will point out you don’t believe in heaven. You don’t believe in God. If I follow you, I will end up with no faith at all. What will I have to show for it. A flag with a rainbow and the faith that men can become women. Your faith is merely woke. It believes nothing about God and destroys morality for a mess of LGBTQQIP2SAA and a coat of many colours.

I would not like to live in Qatar and still less in Saudi Arabia or Iran. I dislike theocracy and could not endure following a religion of laws. But the Qatari can justifiably point out that the laws that he has are because of Islam and he can also point out that if he follows the path of the West, he will end up with no religion at all. If that is what the West wants from him, then it should be honest about it, but why should he follow the path that the West took knowing that it leads to the destruction of all that he holds most dear leaving him nothing but an acronym that keeps getting longer.