Seldom do I write in English, for I am convinced that my words should be dedicated to my people. However, today is an exception. Those who I write to neither share my tongue nor my beliefs as a Qatari citizen.
In 2011, I joined a group of Qatar residents on Twitter in what was arguably the country’s first organized movement using social media. The campaign was held against leading telecom provider Ooredoo (formerly known as Qtel), a for-profit listed company.
Compared to the QMA article, the campaign was fierce in nature, more aggressive in tone and wider in reach.
(To demonstrate this, in the midst of the Arab-spring, global media happily reported, and in some instances, exaggerated the demands of those involved with the #QtelFail campaign so as to compare them to the demands of those in the countries where revolutions have taken place.)
In response to the negative media attention and mounting public pressure, the management of Ooredoo showed far more wisdom, customer satisfaction-oriented behavior and tolerance than the Qatar Museums Authority’s cold reply to the public’s concerns this week.
Ooredoo never went through a stage of denial, whereas I see QMA’s diaspora beginning without an end. Over the past few days, QMA has subtly threatened the author of a recent article criticizing its management, and threatened legal action against his newspaper.
In contrast, when Ooredoo was under fire, it responded to calls for change by inviting a third party to manage a mediation session between them and some of the movement members in order to listen and understand detractors’ point of view.
The telecom provider is not alone in handling public opinion so progressively. Since the #QtelFail campaign, many Qatari entities have been criticized, and faced public scrutiny for what appeared to be operational failure or mismanaged public funds.
But none appeared to have taken any legal action against their criticizers. These entities include:
- Supreme Education Council
- Hamad Hospital
- Qatar Airways
- Urban planning authority
Investigations into some of these companies were instigated by Mr. Faisal Al-Marzoqi himself, but not once was there a threat to deny him the right to write, and us – the public – the right to read and be informed.
One thing these entities have in common is what I believe to be a sincere approach by a Qatari executive or management to respect public opinion and address any organizational inefficiency allegations. QMA needs this type of local, sincere executive leadership, but we are unable to find a trace of it!
We would love to learn from others with different backgrounds and cultures, so as long as these practices do not threaten who we are!
Am I overreacting? I suppose, albeit for a valid reason. Not because of any of the accusations made by Al Marzoqi against QMA, but because of a larger issue.
One that would not just impact a single organization, but rather affects the course of our progress as a society. If QMA proceeds with its threat of taking legal action, and if the legal system entertains such a complaint, then this would promote a culture of fear, and a sense of carelessness about our investment in the community.
And that would be our greatest loss, because we would cease to act as citizens contributing to the success of our country, which is not how I wish to raise my children.
I regret that my understanding of art and antiquities is humble in nature and limited in capacity. But I know that a museum is a building that contains items that humans hold dear and assign a value to beyond money.
I remind you that there are other matters that we hold dear to our hearts, and these matters are not confined to walls as people of this nation. Freedom of speech is but one of many that you shan’t take away, with threats of legal pursuit.
QMA uses public funds, for the purpose of human development. A cup of tea I am willing to drink, not at the cost of my freedom to express worries or concerns. Our religion, our culture and our leaders have instilled this right over the short period of time that went into building this nation.
Ironically, this is the country that has pushed back on all international efforts to mute Al Jazeera from broadcasting opinions that might have “upset” the governing body of falling regimes.
This is the country where the Doha Centre for Media Freedom is located, and is the country whose new leader Shaikh Tamim has started his reign by an inauguration speech that stated:
“We must avoid arrogance; because the modesty with which the Qatari people are known, is an attribute of the strong who are self-confident. Vanity leads to mistakes.”
Credit: Photo courtesy of QMA on Facebook