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Qatar: Critiques bristle; calls to shut down popular online forum

Fed up with criticism of their culture and people, Qataris have begun organizing a campaign to shut down Qatar Living, the country's most popular online forum.

A recent series of Qatar-bashing posts on QL have fueled the outcry and prompted college student Amal to start a Facebook group called anti-qatarliving.com on Sunday. The description reads:

This group is to protest against a website called qatarliving.com where many expatriates who live in Qatar post long threads where they criticize the Qatari citizens and culture using very rude and vulgar vocabulary.

Many of the expatriates on this website (not all of them but most of them) use bad language when talking about Qatari people. They have called us names such as pigs, uncivilized, racist barbarians, and many other hideous names. They say that we cannot survive without them and that we cannot handle or manage our country. They also say that they are the ones who built our country fo us and the ones who are teaching us how to behave like humans.

Our aim is to have this website closed for good and teach whoever is attacking our Qatari identity that Qataris should not be underestimated and underrated and we want all of them to see how vicious we are whenever anyone goes beyond their limits while talking about Qatar.

These people have no appreciation of what this country has given them and we will not let them get away with all of this.

Over the past week, various threads on Qatar Living contained scathing critiques of the country's people and culture. One such thread, which has been removed by QL moderators, included a rant by commenter PM, who was upset by the rowdy behavior of some local teens on Qatar National Day (Friday).

PM's post angered many locals, who called on advertisers to pull their support of QL.

According to local newspaper The Peninsula:

Some remarks against the festivities and the people of Qatar as well as Asian expatriates were in bad taste and smack of racism, said Mohamed Al Jufairi, a civil engineer.

Al Jufairi said he has received American education right from school to university levels and know what constructive criticism is. “But the comments about Qatari nationals and National Day are really humiliating.”

“We are all for freedom of expression but that does not mean you cross boundaries and heap insults on us,” he said.

Remarks that all Qataris are arrogant and egoists are not correct since a large number of them are simple-minded and good people. “Some of us may be bad but to say that all of us are arrogant cannot be true.”

In another QL thread, posted two Decembers ago but resurrected by commenters on Sunday, a disgruntled Canadian woman lists all the reasons “Qatar sucks,” including the weather and “lack of culture.”

gabaee writes:

And finally my biggest problam about Qatar is how they allow all these labours to come and work here like dogs. They should at least be allowed to bring their wives here with them, so that they dont’ ****** stare at women like hungry animals. They disgust me and I find them subhuman in the way they act towards non-Qatari women. While I don't cover up like the Qatari women, I dress very conservatively with loose cloths and don't show any skin while outside. Nevertheless, I have been made feel sooo uncomfortable and harressed by sick words, sounds, and animal-like stares. It's sickening and infuriating.

So my advice to those females out there who have a good active life back in the homeland, with a good family and a good man, DO NOT even consider the idea of moving to Qatar. It's BORING, DISAPPOINTING and DISGUSTING!

The post prompted dozens of responses, many of them from expats defending Qatar and its people.

Commenter Gypsy said:

I have to agree that Qatar is a difficult place for a single gal, and I think they should allow labourers to bring their wives,however I disagree with the rest. I know lots of nice Qataris, and I think the architecture here is pretty neat. Much cooler then anything being built in Canada at the moment.

mx1o0o said:

I have been here for 20 years …Im proud to live here all my life, and will always be proud, even though its not my home country, but Qatar and My home country are one in my heart. We are visitors here. We respect Qatar, those who don't, know where the airport is…

On another QL thread,

genesis said:

I think this is blown out of proportion .This is not about Qatarlivning! QL is a site where both locals & expatriates share useful information about Qatar.In addition to organizing many community services throughout the years. The ND thread was deleted by MODs, Many have expressed their nonacceptance on what's written already In Local internet forums like Qatarshares , many locals also criticized the unfortunate behavior of many during the night parade. I do agree with you that many comments by posters were racial , but it only shows complete ignorance of certain individuals Demand to block the site & then what? People will always find a way or another to vent. Only with understanding of one another can we overcome this clash of cultures.

In a post on the Peninsula article regarding Qatar Living,

Qatar Visitor, a website for expats, writes:

The article and the attack were not really fair on QatarLiving.com, especially as they had both promoted the event themselves and removed the offending comments – I personally can't see what else they be expected to do! …Qatar Living has been a huge success, not just for the website owner but also for Qatar. The website demonstrates that, online at least, Qatar has a measure of freedom of speech. (A measure, because, as the removal of comments show, Qatar Living, like all of us, practises self-censorship…What's more, it's Qatar's number one English language social networking site…With Qatar and ICT pouring money and effort into developing IT and the internet in Qatar, Qatar Living is unlikely to be closed down any time soon. But the website does need to be careful!

On Twitter, there was little support for shutting down QL.

Qatari hndqtr said:

the hell is wrong with them, we'll everybody just let it go!!

Expat VEE6 said:

Sad and small minded individuals.

Amal, founder of the anti-QL Facebook group, which already has 91 members, stressed that her campaign was not against all of Qatar's expats.

She writes on the group's wall:

I want to make sure that everybody knows that were are not against expatriates at all. We are very aware that many people who live and work in Qatar are largely contributing to our country's development. Many of these people are as well our teachers and instructors whom we hold a great amount of respect for. However, the people we are addressing by this protest are the ones who constantly use bad language when talking about Qataris. We are addressing the ones who act as if they like us and are inspired by our culture in front of our faces go talk about us behind our backs calling us retards and uncivilized. We do not want expatriates to leave the country, but we surly demand respect and will never accept being described as savages. Now for those who are not willing to be appreciative of all the benefits they are getting by working in Qatar, they surly are not welcomed to stay in Qatar.

Also on the wall was a plea for peace and an invitation to Qataris to join QL.

Amerah Egab said:

I do hope many of you do read the comments where many of the QL community would like to see more Qataris join us and become active members of this community, there are tens of thousands of members, a couple of loud mouth idiots do not represent us all.

On Monday, a few threads apologizing to the Qatari people were posted on QL. Those who run the site issued an official comment in the afternoon.

Ahmad said:

Over the last few days it seems that instead of facilitating discussions and conversations, Qatar Living has become the conversation.

We just want to point out that Qatar Living is not for or against anyone. It is a website dedicated to helping people make the most out of living in Qatar. From finding the best restaurants to selling you car, from helping people volunteer to organizing social events, Qatar Living is designed to be a place where everyone can feel comfortable and welcome.

Of course, with over 150,000 members and 500,000 people visiting each month, there are bound to be disagreements. And unfortunately, like everywhere on the internet, there are bound to be a small number of people who make comments that are offensive. It is unfair for these comments to generalize and stereotype people.

In the same manner, the objectionable comments by a number of individuals should not be seen as indicative of most of the Qatari's and Expatriates who make up the Qatar Living community. We use our Community Guidelines to clearly indicate what is acceptable on our website. We do apologise if any users have fallen short of these guidelines – we aim to treat every member of this community with respect and dignity.

6 comments

  • Vallath

    Qatar sucks was started in 2007, not this sunday.

  • […] Looking on Twitter, I’d estimate that I’d had around 70% against QL and 30% for QL. I jumped onto a couple of other sites to see what people had to say. Global Voices wrote a great article on this http://globalvoicesonline.org/2009/12/21/qatar-critiques-bristle-calls-to-shut-down-popular-online-f… […]

  • […] Hat tip: Global Voices Online […]

  • Thanks, Shabina, for putting all this info in a nutshell so that I can figure out what all this QL/National Day hoopla is about. Bottom line: Let the people speak… Idiots and all. Although, it would be nice if they could be a bit more respectful with their criticisms. We have wonderful people on both sides of the aisle with a few morons screaming the loudest.

  • Imran S

    Qatar living has recently become an Anti-Qatar and sometimes even a website which allows bashing if the state religion-Islam.

    I am an expat but I love Qatar as my own country but there are some who bite the same hand which feeds them, really sad…

  • Moe

    I think it’s pathetic what QL has become. Bashing Qatar, Islam, Christianity, Racism, Bigotry and every other bad thing you can think of. It’s obvious people can’t handle this freedom they are given. They need to be well moderated and not allowed to post this crap! Plenty other websites available so I say the hell with QL and join those. Those who wish to scream, yell & should senselessly can do so on their own.

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