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New York Times ridicules Qataris

Today's New York Times published a rather biting article about the conflict between Qataris and non-Qataris in Qatar: Affluent Qataris Seek What Money Cannot Buy.

Qataris' and non-Qataris' stereotypes of each other is something I've been thinking about a lot this summer, between the Lisa Clayton kerfuffle and the recent arguments over on Mimiz Blog about whether Qataris are discriminated against in the workplace here.

So it's nice to see the New York Times addressing something that I think IS a hot issue here (their last article on Qatar having been a little random)... but the way they go about it makes me cringe a little. I think it'd be more interesting for them to have dug deeper into Qatarization and its effects, or the role of nationality in expats' experience of Qatar, rather than just making mocking digs about people's restaurant etiquette.

The main things I've heard discussed about this locally are (a) the unrepresentativeness of the Qatari interviewees, almost all of whom are high school dropouts, and (b) shock that the NYT got these quotes on record. I am completely unsurprised that a director at QSTP would privately feel that "Qataris are very spoiled," but utterly astonished that he would say so to a New York Times reporter. (Some even suspect they might not have known they were on record.)

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( 49 comments — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
May. 15th, 2010 03:37 pm (UTC)
Infantile NY Times
Hi Marjorie,

I don't know what the NY Times' problem is lately with Qatar - it seems like it's Qatar bashing season. I doubt that any of the quotes they are getting are in fact what the interviewees said at all. I think the journalists are using very dirty tricks in their campaign against Qatar. I object to the campaign and I suspect that they are trying to make Qataris feel ashamed of their affluence, because frankly Qatar has a lot going for it right now, so time to bring it down a peg or two! Who knows, next week they might be targeting Saudi or UAE. In fact, I don't believe that Qatar or the GCC is any of the NY Times' business if i may be so blunt. I happen to work with some well-educated and hard working Qataris and as for the expat contingent in general, they earn good money working here and I think it is pretty pathetic when they moan all the time. It is Qatar's money that they are banking and sending home to loved ones, so i think gratitude and a sense of perspective should be the order of the day, don't you? Secondly, i would like to see the NY Times interview the expats who experience respect and hospitality when they come to Qatar. Like any place, there are good and bad, but I challenge anyone to refute that Qataris are, on balance, welcoming and respectful to their guests. I would also qualify this by saying that Qatar has self-awareness, and where there are weaknesses, these are recognised and "on the agenda".

I just wanted to offer my two cents as an alternative voice to the NY times' skewed campaign. I know that I am not the only one that when i am on the plane taking off from Doha I have pangs of regret and count down the days until i touch down again in Doha. So for those who were riding bicycles and hailing taxis to work in their home countries, and are now cruising in their SUVs - let's have a bit of goodwill towards our hosts.
qatar
May. 15th, 2010 07:41 pm (UTC)
Re: Infantile NY Times
"I doubt that any of the quotes they are getting are in fact what the interviewees said at all."

I agree with you that the article has a hostile slant, but I don't see any reason to think they made up the quotes.

"It is Qatar's money that they are banking and sending home to loved ones, so i think gratitude and a sense of perspective should be the order of the day, don't you?"

Frankly, no. I have enjoyed my years in Qatar and feel generally positive about what this country is doing, but I don't think I ought to feel "gratitude" that I get paid. I earn my pay; it's not charity. I think immigrants ought to be free to be frank about the things they love and the things they dislike about their adopted country; that should be true for Moroccans who are upset about the burqa ban in France, and it should be true for Americans who are upset about the family day policies in Qatar.

"I challenge anyone to refute that Qataris are, on balance, welcoming and respectful to their guests.

If by "guests" you mean skilled Western expats, I agree. However, if you include Indian laborers and Indonesian nannies, then I think Qataris are on the whole very VERY far from being welcoming and respectful.
(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Re: Infantile NY Times
"I agree with you that the article has a hostile slant, but I don't see any reason to think they made up the quotes."

Quotes are only accurate if taken in context. I don't believe the journalist reported what was said in the context in which it was said.

"Frankly, no. I have enjoyed my years in Qatar and feel generally positive about what this country is doing, but I don't think I ought to feel "gratitude" that I get paid. I earn my pay; it's not charity"

No doubt you do earn your pay Marjorie but I bet Qatar pays you an awful lot more than your home country would. It's not a matter of gratitude for getting paid, it's about not taking things for granted and recognizing that you are part of Qatar's growth but also an ingredient of the tensions the article 'discusses'. If a country is putting itself on the line to grow and improve, and the people it brings in to join in that process do nothing but belittle and criticize the country and the locals, then I imagine if the shoe were on the other foot you would feel pretty annoyed too - perhaps not. Remember that while you contend with a lot of frustrations living here, Qataris are also contending with their own frustrations with respect to its expatriate population. I suggest less finger pointing and more trying to understand Qataris - that is the only way that different views and cultures can get along.

"I think immigrants ought to be free to be frank about the things they love and the things they dislike about their adopted country; that should be true for Moroccans who are upset about the burqa ban in France, and it should be true for Americans who are upset about the family day policies in Qatar."

I'm not surprised that you don't understand this culture - so I have no comment for the upset Americans.

"If by "guests" you mean skilled Western expats, I agree. However, if you include Indian laborers and Indonesian nannies, then I think Qataris are on the whole very VERY far from being welcoming and respectful."

Don't be too keen to judge Marjorie. Let Qataris be the ones to have that conversation. Taking the moral high-ground is so typically expat.
Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 16th, 2010 09:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 17th, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 17th, 2010 12:52 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 17th, 2010 02:01 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 17th, 2010 04:13 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 17th, 2010 10:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 19th, 2010 08:47 am (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 19th, 2010 08:09 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 19th, 2010 08:52 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 19th, 2010 12:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
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(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2010 09:10 pm (UTC)
Re: Infantile NY Times
"If by "guests" you mean skilled Western expats, I agree. However, if you include Indian laborers and Indonesian nannies, then I think Qataris are on the whole very VERY far from being welcoming and respectful."


Didn't you just contradict yourself?! I was happy that you gave a non biased and objective response to the article until I read that sentence. Have you met every Qatari in Qatar and know for a fact that we treat "Indian laborers and Indonesian nannies" with less respect than their Western counterparts? I don't think so. I'm Qatari and I make sure to treat everyone with respect regardless of their ethnicity, religion, gender...etc. The same goes for my immediate familym extended family and friends whom treat their maids with respect, humility and kindness. I'm just upset as you are in regards to the human rights condition of laborers in Qatar, but that doesn't give you the right to judge me as a Qatari when you don't even know me. Otherwise, you're no better than the person that wrote the article. I'm shocked that for someone who works at EC, you would think that of Qatari's. I'm a student in EC, and the Qatari's beside myself that study there represent the highly educated and respectful portion of society, so how, pray tell, did you reach that conclusion?! Please get off your high horse and practice what you preach!

Nasser
Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 16th, 2010 09:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 16th, 2010 10:33 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 17th, 2010 06:56 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Infantile NY Times - (Anonymous) - May. 17th, 2010 02:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
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Re: Infantile NY Times - qatar - May. 17th, 2010 11:34 am (UTC) - Expand
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(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
Wow
Don't be too keen to judge Marjorie. Let Qataris be the ones to have that conversation. Taking the moral high-ground is so typically expat.

Thanks for giving a perfect demonstration of what the article is about.

Let Qataris be the ones to have that conversation.

You earlier challenged (your word) anyone to make the case. Then you get upset when someone (Marjorie) takes up the challenge?

(Anonymous)
May. 16th, 2010 11:46 pm (UTC)
well there you have it marjorie
Qataris don't want any expats to express anything but fawning adoration of the amazing progress (and I am sincere about the progress) that has been made in the past decade. The minute someone does, they are just a few steps from the "if you don't like it, leave" line that gets floated around everywhere you see Qataris and expats mixing online.
(Anonymous)
May. 17th, 2010 12:27 am (UTC)
well there you have it marjorie
Expats don't want any Qatari's to express anything but fawning adoration of the amazing progress (and I am sincere about the progress) that expats have achieved in the past decade. The minute someone does, they are just a few steps from the "Qatari's this, Qatari's that" line that gets floated around everywhere you see Qataris and expats mixing online ;)
(Anonymous)
May. 17th, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
Another anonymous poster
The fact that such a short, poorly written and obviously biased article can ruffle feathers to the extent that it has rather proves the point that this culture isn't ready to integrate into the modern world just yet.

Are Qataris upset because they don't like everything that was written? Are they offended that someone has an opinion that runs counter to their own? Do they find it offensive that someone should say anything negative, or at least not overtly positive, about them?

All in all it does point to a culture of person who is spoilt and unused to not getting everything their own way all the time.

Money can't buy you favourable coverage in the New York Times, but mature, grown up people get over it, rather than starting Facebook groups and kicking and screaming (in a virtual, online environment) like petulant brats.

For the record I thought the article was biased, poorly written and not fit for publication in the NYT. But I still did find the overall content interesting and not far from my own experience.

I've been here for 5 years, and intend to stay on longer, and in that time I too have sadly come to the conclusion that on the whole, Qataris do not respect foreign workers. They are discriminated against not just in behaviour, but in the law - exit permits being a prime example of this. There is no meaningful legal protection for labourers and workers whose rights are abused, and seemingly no ethical or moral imperative by bosses to treat them fairly or decently.
(Anonymous)
May. 17th, 2010 11:11 am (UTC)
Re: Another anonymous poster
I suppose the author felt it was a good stage setting article. After all, the country has a lot of money (whether or not specific citizens do), and it imports a lot of labor, and many citizens don't like the result. Such a situation is surprising at face value!

One hopes for a followup dealing with what's behind face value.
(Deleted comment)
(Anonymous)
May. 18th, 2010 09:39 am (UTC)
Re: Another anonymous poster
lelandt: Why don't you join the discussion instead of talking shit about those anonymous people who have?
ext_232041
May. 19th, 2010 04:09 pm (UTC)
Tried sending a private email, but seems to be difficult.

Let me just say I enjoy your posts. You always seem to comment on just the things I would like to, but don't have the courage to write about. Maybe I will when I know I'm on the way out and it's not so risky.

Always appreciate your insights and mostly just bringing topics to the forefront that need to be discussed.

I was surprised people living here would actually be quoted with any negatives perspective in the NYT article. It wasn't the best article, but it's always interesting to read something about what's happening here, even though you can't ever find it in the local news. It's unfortunate the only time a real debate can take place here is when it's televised on Doha Debates...and who knows how one ever get to actually be part of the discussion there!

Thanks Marjorie!
qatar
May. 20th, 2010 10:57 am (UTC)
Glad you enjoyed it! Wow, 11 years in Doha... you must have seen a lot of changes. :-)

BTW, one of the people quoted in the NYT article -- the "Qataris are spoiled" dude -- says he was badly misquoted.

Have you not attended a Doha Debate in real life? I recommend it!

Edited at 2010-05-20 10:58 am (UTC)
(Anonymous)
May. 19th, 2010 06:35 pm (UTC)
The same Everywhere
I've lived in Qatar for two years and love living here. Sure there are some things which are very different to London, however, in London I wouldn't have enough disposable income to put one son through university and the other through private school with some left over for fun and even some to put in an investment for a rainy day. To point out a couple of Qatari's who are not working very hard, is like saying in the US or UK there are no lazy people. The Qatari's I deal with on a daily basis are both bright and hard working with good manners to go with it. To knock Qatar as some haven of unhappiness is both unfair and inaccurate. There will always be disaffected people in any country or in professional life, it doesn't mean Qatar is full of resentful people, it isn't.
(Anonymous)
May. 20th, 2010 02:10 pm (UTC)
Re: The same Everywhere
Check back with us in a few years and see if you're still feeling the same way. I would bet your viewpoint may have changed somewhat.

Most folks I know, grow to dislike living here, not the other way around. It's a shame really, because there is so much going for it, there just needs to be some huge attitude adjustments. And that probabaly goes for both the expats and the Nationals living here.

( 49 comments — Leave a comment )