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Spontaneous outrage erupted when Qatar was selected to host the 2022 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup. With the matches starting this month, Europe continues to be the epicenter of the hostility that primarily circles around Qatar’s type of government and historical civil rights issues. Europe does lay claim to the origin of modern football, known in America as soccer, dating back to London in 1863.

As the world’s number one sport, the event does have both athletic and political attachments. Brazil’s Pelé led his team to three FIFA World Cup titles and won international admiration for his skills. Nelson Mandela used the World Cup to help bring South Africa together after the fall of the apartheid government.

Qatar, a monarchy, is the first Arab nation to host the World Cup. Difficult for Western liberals to accept is the fact that democracies do not work well in the Middle East. As a senior anti-terrorism officer in the Middle East, I experienced the chaos that resulted when Western nations forced democracy into Iraq and Afghanistan. There will be bloodshed and instability for decades to come.

I also came to respect the monarchies of Jordan’s King Abdullah and Qatar’s ruling emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani. Their progressive leadership has always been in the best interests of their countries. They are also two of America’s firmest and most trustworthy allies in the Middle East.

Qatari detractors' focus on the country’s long-term history has blinded them to the rapid progress Emir Tamim has achieved since his ascension to power in 2013. In every area the critics are addressing, Emir Tamim has already initiated reforms that are the most progressive in the Middle East.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women is a priority. In countries like Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, women are being constrained, imprisoned and tortured for wishing to express themselves. Qatar is proving to all its neighboring countries the importance of removing religious fundamentalist constraints from 50% of the population.

Qatar has put an end to foreign laborers who have been held captive at less or non-existent wages, equating to job slavery. Throughout the oil-rich nations of the Arab world, foreign labor was imported to work the more dangerous and less desired jobs.

Recognizing the despicable treatment that nearly two million foreign workers in Qatar were receiving, Emir Tamim teamed up with the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) in 2017 to protect the rights of these people. Even prior to engaging the ILO, the Qatari government passed laws protecting foreign workers, such as the 2015 law limiting employers from withholding employees’ passports and travel documents.

In 2017, the Qatari government approved Migrant Worker Rights, which limited work to 10 hours a day. Employers were also required to pay employees during their probationary periods. In 2018, the requirement for foreign nationals to have an exit permit was removed, now allowing them to leave the country unimpeded. In 2020, a minimum wage was established, and foreign nationals were allowed to look for work with different employers without a certificate of authorization from their current bosses.

Emir Tamim is drawing the ire of other Muslim nations, especially those ruling their populations with wrongful oppressive mandates. They fear their citizens will demand the same reforms Qatar is implementing. Drawing the outrage of select elites from Europe and nations around the world, for the historical oppressions he has been eliminating in his country, is not warranted.

The hypocrisy goes further. Some of the most vocal critics come from countries claiming commitment to Green energy. Unlike those countries, Qatar has placed much greater investment into research and development of solar energy. An 800-megawatt solar power plant is already fully operational. Qatar is in position to have 10% of the country’s energy use come from renewable sources. Visitors to the World Cup matches will be able to move around on a state-of-the-art metro system and in over a thousand electric buses.

A former critic of the Qatari-hosted World Cup, Norway’s Football Federation Chief, Lise Klaveness, personally examined the facts and is now a supporter. Recognizing the reforms and what the games can do both for global awareness and for Qatar, Klaveness recently stated, “Our game can inspire dreams and break down barriers, but as leaders we must do it right and to the highest standards.”

Her comments echo what Pelé’s playing skills did for the game and how Mandela was able to use the games for bringing people together.

Emir Tamim’s reforms have, and continue to fulfill, Klaveness’ expectation of doing “it right and to the highest standards.” Continuing to criticize the location of the World Cup and addressing the historical past is reminiscent of spectators in the stands reacting to plays in which they have no control. Since assuming power, Emir Tamim has been in play every day and leading his country to the achievement of long overdue goals. By hosting the World Cup, Qatar is opening itself up for international evaluation. Despite pre-World Cup opposition from the critics, the world will not be disappointed in what is observed on the field or throughout the country.

Wes Martin, a retired U.S. Army colonel, has served in multiple joint service commands throughout the world.

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