Tag Archives: Qatar

Princess Sheikha Mozah: Qatar’s Untapped Soft Power?

Sheikha Mozah

Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al-Missned, the wife of the former emir of Qatar, is a woman below the radar of many mainstream Westerners; but on full display to fashion world. So is such a fashionista that, Vogue Italia once labeled her their “Obsession of the Day.”

However, her notoriety does not extend far from the runway. Sheikha Moza has failed to become a well-known name or royal “brand,” the way Diana once was, and the Duchess of Cambridge and Queen Rania have become. Which begs the question, why?

Sheikha Mozah, like her counterparts, is not only a fashion trendsetter but: highly educated, beautiful and a philanthropist. She uses her public stature to promote education, science, and community development. She executes her royal duties just as well – if not better- as any other royal.

The Daily Beast attributes Sheikha Mozah’s lack of fame due to her conservative dress and religious observance. She the second wife of three, never seen in public bare-legged, and always wears a hijab. The Daily Beast goes on to suggest that this makes it hard for Western women to relate to her and her culture.

I however see her distinct style as a way to communicate to the world who she is and what her country and religion are all about. With a good communications team, she could revamp her image and propel herself onto the international stage. Brand her, not as another woman oppressed by her religion, but a woman empowered by her religion.

She could use her stature to demystify Islam and open the door for cultural exchanges with the undertone that Muslim women are not trapped by their religion, but choose practice their faith. To have a woman with her education, wealth and influence change the tone about what it means to be a Muslim woman others will begin to gain a better understanding of the religion and its culture. Increased understanding of the Muslim world would do a lot to build partnerships, increase prosperity and maintain security in all regions of the world.

Why You’ve Never Heard of the World’s Best-Dressed Royal

“Qatar is off the message”… And so is FIFA

world-cup-logo

This post builds off as a reply to Alona’s insightful comment on Qatar’s PD with respect to labor related deaths in construction of the 2018 World Cup stadiums. I have created a separate post as I extend the analysis into the realm of FIFA and the World Cup itself.

Qatar’s disastrous management of the labour–related deaths scandal, besides raising concerns of blatant human rights violations, profoundly shatters confidence in and support for one of the world’s most popular sports and its most widely watched event. Certainly, it destroys enthusiasm for the next World Cup, at least to the extent to which it appeals to the conscience of billions of fans worldwide, torn between the love for the sport and the demands for respect of human rights. Thus, it is very ironic to analyze this phenomenon, in so far as sports have been identified as a potential vehicle for positive public diplomacy amongst nations.

The World Cup, besides being a thrilling event of passionate matches and displays of genius from the planet’s new and old show offs, is as much an opportunity for nations to come together in “fair play”, not merely showing but exemplifying the values of respect, camaraderie, fraternity, and sportsmanship. Soccer players become ambassadors for their countries at the prelude and during the games. So do their fans, ranging from recognized personalities such as heads of state to outstanding fans that charmed their way into the media, becoming symbols of their respective country’s exoticism. (Paraguay’s Larissa Riquelme, from South Africa’s 2010 World Cup, is a case in point.) One has only to remember the songs that have been recorded for the tournaments throughout the years (the most recent ones being “The Love Generation” and Shakira’s “Waka Waka”), to agree, at least to some extent, that these were songs that spoke of happiness, of forging lasting friendships, of peace, of hope for a better world. It is no coincidence that the song for the upcoming 2014 World Cup is called “We Are One.” (Cultural diplomacy in the World Cup is also played out through music– it’s all about forging global bonds that converge in mutual passions.)

This is what makes the deaths by forced labor in Qatar extra despicable, to say the least. However, Qatar’s compliance notwithstanding, it is important to point out that a big component of abuses committed in preparation for the World Cup can be traced to FIFA’s own power management. FIFA is a very powerful organization, led by a very powerful leader. Joseph Blatter often employs a hard soft power, (building on the notion that soft power is not soft as it involves coercion) shrewdly used to impose his interests and those of his acolytes. The fact that soccer is such a beloved sport for millions throughout the globe makes it an ideal space for the contradictions of power to flourish. However, it also offers a unique opportunity for grassroots movements– the new actors with the potential to transform the PD arena in fundamental ways– to advocate for absolute compliance with and defense for human rights.

Qatar is Off the Message

 

FBL-WC2014-QAT-FIFA-TROPHY

As I start my research on Qatar’s public diplomacy strategy, I was surprised by this week’s reports following the death of an Indian worker in the 2022 World Cup host preparations. What surprised me was not the fact of the death or the subsequent statistics revealing high death rates and a range of abuses against migrant workers in Qatar, but rather the hesitant and unsatisfying reactions by Qatari officials.

Scholarly literature that I had reviewed so far  (Azran, 2013; Barakat, 2012; Peterson, 2006) suggests that Qatar has skilfully adopted some of the main principles of public diplomacy and soft power. Qatar makes smart use of PD techniques, frames its messages and avoids contradictions between domestic communication and mediated diplomacy, a technique suggested as especially important by Enthman (2008). However with the case of the Indian worker, it seems that Qatar has lost its grip of clever PD. It started by denying the reports, moved on to claiming the death figures to be ‘normal’ and continued with making completely unconvincing statements to reason the numbers such as: “Indians make up the largest community in Qatar… twice the number of Qatari nationals” (Ali Bin Sumaikh al-Marri, the Head of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee).

My personal thoughts on this are that Qatar, as many other states including the US, forgets that public image is a sum of various variables. While it’s important to focus on specific issues where a state possesses competitive advantage (Qatar focuses strongly on mediation), other issues should not be overlooked. In case of Qatar there is definitely not enough focus on addressing and framing its questionable human rights practices inside the country.

To read the story:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26260765

Why is Qatar spending so much money in the United States?

I thought I’d shift from my usual habitat of East Asia and look into something closer to home that sparked my curiosity late last year:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/qatar-foundation-to-open-cultural-center-in-citycenterdc/2013/10/15/c5ff7192-359e-11e3-80c6-7e6dd8d22d8f_story.html

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Construction at the CityCenter Project in downtown D.C.

 

 In short: The tiny Arab monarchy of Qatar is investing big in the United States, building a massive residential business complex a couple of blocks north of Chinatown and launching the U.S. edition of Al-Jazeera from new studios in Manhattan. Part of the new development in D.C. will be an office for the Qatar Foundation International, which will teach about Arabic language and culture.

 The big question that I think many will ask is: why bother? Why would a nation of 250,000 people (two million if you count non-citizens) put so much money into public diplomacy?

 One crude but valid answer is that Qatar has money to burn. Thanks to its location above the world’s largest gas deposit, Qatar has the world’s highest GDP per capita, sitting just above the $100,000 mark.  With that kind of money, dropping $650 million on D.C. real estate is not much of a big deal (and perhaps a good investment).

 However, I think a second element needs to be considered here. We focus a lot on how public diplomacy can be used to help achieve foreign policy objectives, but is it possible that a country’s image abroad could be not just a means, but an end unto itself? In the Middle East, different nations pride themselves on different things. Saudi Arabia is the custodian of the two holy mosques, Iran pushes to become the second Middle Eastern nation to have nuclear weapons.

 Without the population, land or overall size of economy, Qatar can never compete in areas like military might. So what can be known for instead? I think investments like Al Jazeera’s U.S. launch and the development downtown hint at the kind of nation that Qatar’s leadership wants to present to the world.