Following a heated discussion about Qatar’s “One Love” theme for this year’s National Day, which many residents said fell short of their expectations, Khalifa Saleh Al Haroon, co-founder of ILoveQatar.net, has written this piece urging people to keep the nation’s outreach efforts in perspective. Those who make attempts to improve relations between the expat and local communities need support, not detractors, he says.
In looking at developed nations, I think it’s fair to say that none of them can easily assert that its residents live in perfect harmony. In that regard, Qatar is not alone in trying to bridge ties between different communities.
The “One Love” campaign was a first step by this country to publicly try to thank the expat community for their hard work, and to show that how both expats and locals together can help build Qatar.
Sadly though, it seems that people are so quick to complain and moan, not keeping in mind that the government is made up of people like you and me. They too need encouragement.
I can tell you that there’s been quite a few occasions where even I felt like saying, “forget it, this isn’t worth it”, when expats judge me without even knowing me. Some assume the worst, not realizing that I myself have dedicated the past few years to bridging the gap between expats and locals.
The problem on Wednesday appeared to be unrealistic expectations – that the “One Love” banner meant everything was going to perfect from day one.
Some people complained that they were turned away and not allowed into the Corniche parade, for example, calling it a racist decision.
However, I had two Qatari friends, a British friend, and a French friend who were turned away as well, simply because it was too crowded. I’m sure that they were bummed and felt like it wasn’t fair, but we all know how crowded it can be during National Day, right?
And, taking a look at photos at the parade, it’s clear that it drew in people from many different nationalities.
Ahead of National Day, ILQ put together a video to thank different members of the community. A few people criticized it, saying that they’ve never seen such a gathering of people from all walks of life; but I hang out at coffee shops all the time with friends from India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Egypt, America, England, Qatar, etc.
In fact, I sometimes tweet that I’m at a certain spot and invite anyone who wants to come over to just hang out. Is it fair that just because someone didn’t experience that, they get to claim that such a gathering could never happen?
For argument’s sake, let’s say its true, if most Qataris don’t regularly interact with expats, is it smart to put me down? Wouldn’t encouragement provide more positive results? Side note: I don’t let the negativity pull me down, because I’ve got too much love to share :). Plus, the video received many more positive comments from great people.
This year, there were a couple of events that stood out to me, such as the Nepali concert in one of the stadiums, and an Asian comedy event that I attended. It was great to see that there were events that catered to different demographics here.
Does racism exist in Qatar? Absolutely it does. Just as racism exists all over the world. Let’s admit it, we’re all guilty of stereotyping and labeling others. I see some people acting like victims, when in fact they themselves end up labeling us Qataris as if they have the right to.
Just like any other country in the world, we’ve got hard-working people, lazy people, smart people, not-so-smart people (being polite here), trouble makers, creative – and the the list goes on.
We all know as a country that Qatar isn’t perfect. But it is working very hard to try and improve on a daily basis. I for one can tell you that I’m hopeful. I believe Qatar can be one of the most admired countries in the world.
But to get there, its residents must tone down their complaints and start becoming part of the solution.
Here’s my public pledge:
“I promise to continue to try and help make Qatar a better place.”