Unpacking Germany’s crusade against Qatar 2022 (Part 2)
Germany's sanctimonious anti-Qatar campaign is nothing more than a liberal whitelash in the service of preserving Western cultural dominance.
The fascinating thing about Germany’s bigoted anti-Qatar campaign in the context of the Gulf nation hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup is not the unsurprising orientalist and xenophobic overtones of yet another Western hegemonic discourse, but that it has been spearheaded by the country’s political liberal-left.
Trashcans, lampposts, and doorways of the graffiti-bombed streets of Berlin’s traditional left-wing districts such as Kreuzberg and Northern Neukölln are flyposted with agitprop stickers reading “Boycott the World Cup in Qatar!” and “Slavery World Cup is sickening!”, while prime-time formats on German state television are airing talk shows suggestively titled “Should the World Cup 2022 in Qatar be boycotted?” in a manner that is typical for structurally racist discourses: both interviewers and interviewees are white as snowflakes.
And although after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, a sycophantic German economy minister, Green party member Robert Habeck, was seen groveling before Qatari government officials in Doha in a desperate attempt to break his country’s dependence on Russian gas, the German government is now back to flexing its neocolonial muscles: Social Democratic Interior Minister Nancy Faeser recently flew to the Qatari capital and admonished her hosts, saying "all people, wherever they come from, whoever they love and whatever they believe in, must be safe during the World Cup” and that “every fan must be allowed to move freely and without fear”, thereby creating the ludicrously false image of Qatar as a second Saudi Arabia where persecution reigns supreme.
Furthermore, questioning Qatar’s safety credentials is a tall order, the Gulf nation being one of the safest in the world: according to a 2019 report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Qatar has a lower intentional homicide (and femicide!) rate than Germany does.
Modesty is not homophobia
Not only should the relative nobody in federal politics that is Ms. Faeser have caught up on her reading during her six-hour flight from Berlin to Doha, but she would also have done herself a great service by listening to a party colleague of hers, former German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel.
The veteran statesman, in a rare and unusually candid manifestation of German self-criticism, posted two tweets dated October 29 that single-handedly laid bare the entire hypocrisy of Germany’s anti-Qatar bashing:
"The German arrogance towards Qatar is sickening! How forgetful are we? Homosexuality was a crime in Germany until 1994. My mother needed the permission of her husband to work. We treated guest workers in a shitty way and housed them miserably."
Gabriel followed up by saying: "It took us decades to become a liberal country, Progress does not come overnight, but step by step. That applied to Germany and now applies to Qatar. The UN, the ILO are praising the country for its reforms. Only we Germans are insulting it every day."
Faeser’s words, on the other hand, are typical of an entitled and supremacist German view that routinely confuses modesty with homophobia because it has neither an understanding of nor respect for the cultural mores of sexually conservative societies where PDAs (public displays of affection), regardless of one’s sexual orientation, are frowned upon. Furthermore, they are also completely in line with the Eurocentric ideology of a nation which is predominantly atheist ("There is a direct line from atheism to entitlement," said lovable African-American family patriarch Dre once in an episode of the hit TV series Black-ish) and therefore views religion, especially when it is of the Islamic persuasion, as an anachronistic superstition of backward people.
Alternatively, when you have a Western country like Britain where People of Color are part of the power structure and not excluded from it as in Germany where of the 736 members of the Bundestag, the German parliament, only three are Black (that is half the number of Black players projected to be nominated for the 26-man German squad that will be heading to Qatar later this month!), you will hear self-deprecating words like those spoken by British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly who has said that "it is important when you are a visitor to another country that you respect the culture of your host nation."
Germany, a self-proclaimed liberal nation-state where even leftist politicians like DIE LINKE party icon Sahra Wagenknecht, the daughter of an Iranian immigrant, in the context of refugee policy, are not above pandering to the far-right by saying things like "Those who abuse their right to hospitality forfeit it", should take its own advice before making demands of others.
And if white Germans are incapable of mustering a modicum of cultural sensitivity towards an Arab country thousands of kilometers away, the least they could do is show some love and respect for the Turkish, Arab, Muslim and African communities in their own country who, if the number of Brown and Black kids I see nowadays walking around Berlin with the recently released Qatar 2022 Panini sticker album is any indication, are keenly looking forward to the first World Cup in the Middle Eastern part of the Global South.
Germany’s liberal whitelash
The terms “white supremacy” and “whitelash” are primarily associated with the far-right, the latter a portmanteau describing a phenomenon when whiteness feels threatened in its power, and which online dictionary Wordnik defines as a "backlash by white racists against civil rights advances." In the recent past, in the context of the US, these have been the Tea Party and birther movements and ultimately the Trump presidency (all following the election of the first Black US president), as well as the storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters in reaction to Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris, a woman of Color, winning the 2020 election.
Yet liberals, especially white liberal Germans who like to believe they are better than their American protectors in the metrics of societal advancement, are no stranger to instigating racist backlashes, as Germany’s anti-Qatar bashing has proven. Therefore, a much more inclusive definition of a whitelash can be found on dictionary.com, which describes it as "a hostile or violent reaction by white people to the advances or influx of other racial groups." Notice how this definition uses the term “white people” and not “white racists”, thus showing that at the heart of racialized bigotry lies not racism as an idiosyncratic aberration of whiteness, but the ideology of whiteness itself.
So whether it is protests by liberal-left Germans on the streets of Berlin exhibiting their performative outrage at the death of Mahsa Amini in Iran (who are indignant about the Islamic Republic’s headscarf mandate, but have no issue with the French and German states and the EU judiciary policing women’s bodies with Islamophobic hijab bans) or it is the ignorant and insufferable attacks against Qatar: these lefty-liberal whitelashes are not primarily about support for universal human rights, but essentially desperate attempts to project white supremacy and Western dominance that has been in decline for some time now and will ultimately be resigned to the ash heap of history.