Qatar may not be changing as fast the world would like, but the slow and steady pace is being managed so that “our young people understand and know how to deal with it,” Qatar’s former first lady has said.
In a recent wide-ranging interview with the foreign editor of the Financial Times, Sheikha Moza bint Nasser also defended Qatar Foundation’s mandate, her rights as a second wife and the “stereotype of dumb Arab money.”
QF, like many organizations in Qatar, has recently seen a slew of budget cuts.
When asked if the 2013 handover of power from her husband to her son had anything to do with the new austerity policies, Sheikha Moza said the cuts were her idea as chairperson.
“I’m trying to make everyone understand that it’s not an open account any more . . . We started without knowing how much it was going to cost us. Today we know,” she told the FT.
QF not ‘vanity project’
The former first lady also defended long-standing criticism of Education City, whose collection of foreign campuses yields relative few graduates each year compared to Qatar University.
“I suggest it might have been much cheaper to send Qataris to be educated abroad, rather than spending billions of dollars bringing foreign university campuses to Doha. Is the foundation more than just a vanity project?
It was never about educating ‘a few’ individuals, she says. ‘The vision is really to build an infrastructure for a knowledge-based society.’ She says I am not taking the bigger picture into account and lists a series of research projects that the western universities are involved in, with local hospitals and government agencies. ‘I’m creating an ecosystem [that] needs pillars, and the pillars are the academies and research institutions.’
During another part of the interview, Sheikha Moza is asked about why she doesn’t take up the cause of women’s rights in the region. In response, the leader argued that it’s just as important to educate men about these rights as women.
And in response to criticism that Qatar is not a modern state because she is the second wife of the Father Emir, who is married to three women, she added:
“I’m a person allowed to be educated and to have a public life. Wearing the hijab or being a second wife doesn’t prevent me from doing that; it doesn’t hinder my progress. I respect other wives, and their children are like my children.”
Finally, Sheikha Moza, who recently lambasted international media for stereotyping Muslims, took to task people who dismiss Qatar’s leaders as being rich but clueless.
“We’re portrayed in the media as rich people who have a lot of money and don’t know what to do with it. We are blessed with our wealth but we know how to deal with this wealth,” she said.