The talks, which entailed a plan for team captains to wear anti-Islamophobia armbands, were rejected by FIFA who said they violated its rules.
Qatar and other Muslim nations were planning to wear armbands to raise awareness on Islamophobia during the 2022 World Cup, the first ever to take place in a Muslim country.
Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, among other nations, planned for team captains to wear anti-Islamophobia armbands, according to a report by Sky News. The plans were rejected by FIFA, who said they violated its rules.
“Prior to the start of the tournament, Qatar, and some of the other Muslim-majority teams, were in advanced discussions regarding whether the players could wear armbands raising awareness for the growing movement of Islamophobia,” a senior Qatari official told Sky News on Thursday.
“The teams accepted [FIFA’s] decision but were disappointed that an important issue such as this, which negatively impacts the millions of Muslims around the world, was not being given a platform during the first World Cup to be hosted in a Muslim-majority region,” the Qatari official added.
The 2022 FIFA World Cup stood out of all 22 editions of the major tournament. Besides Qatar being the first Muslim, Arab country to host the event, the Gulf state was able to exhibit to millions the region’s spirit of unity and hospitality.
The World Cup in Qatar also witnessed Morocco make history as the first-ever Muslim team to reach the quarter-finals.
Given the ongoing growth of Islamophobia particularly from the West, Qatar would have been an opportunity to further raise awareness on the issue.
Sky News said it obtained a copy of the armbands’ designs that had “No place for Islamophobia” written on it.
The design also featured the black-and-white checkered pattern of the keffiyeh, a Palestinian scarf that has widely become a symbol of resistance against the Israeli occupation.
With the Palestinian cause being central to the region, Qatar was flooded with the green, black, white and red flag as well as the keffiyeh.
This was especially during Morocco’s victory where team members and Moroccans dedicated their win to Palestine.
Previously, FIFA decided to not allow the OneLove armbands on the pitch, which aimed at protesting Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ laws. The football governing body had said that any alterations to the teams’ gear required its pre-approval.
“Armbands are not the real story. Rather, the story is about a global pivot, changes in the dynamics of power, geopoliticisation of the world,” Professor Simon Chadwick, Director of Centre for the Eurasian Sport Industry, tweeted.
Standing up to critics
In the lead-up to the World Cup, Qatar witnessed heavy criticism particularly from the West, with headlines and caricatures being regularly rolled out against the Gulf state.
Those headlines have all been slammed globally and by Qatari officials as racist and Islamophobic.
The Gulf state later appeared to stand up to the criticism by hosting an event that has widely been described as a success, where millions have enjoyed the beauty of football and Qatar’s culture.
Mosques have also attracted many curious fans that wanted to learn more about Islam, with many videos circulating online of people converting to the religion.
“I think it’s [Muslim armband] something very nice, because what people think about Islam is pretty bad around the world,” Yusef, a pilot from Jeddah, told Sky News.
Just a day after kick-off, Qatar’s Assistant Foreign Minister Lolwah Al-Khater took aim at the rise of Islamophobia against people in the region.
“The peoples of our region have been wronged when they have become victims of successive crises, armed conflicts, raging conflicts, and an increasing escalation of the Islamophobic rhetoric,” said Al Khater.
The Qatari diplomat added that the region has faced “malicious campaigns based on double standards, for which innocent people paid the price of displacement, asylum and cruel treatment.”