Less than two years after spreading anti-Qatar propaganda and hateful comments, controversial figures receive invites to Doha, free of charge.
Social media users are calling on the World Cup organisers, the Qatar Football Association and other public entities, to carry out strict background checks on potential guests after influencers, particularly those coming from former blockading countries and who personally incited against Qatar, are being given VIP treatment and invites to the Final Draw.
The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy [SC] found itself under hefty criticism from a number of users after a famous Egyptian influencer, Ibrahim Fayek, posted his ‘special’ invite for FIFA’s final draw.
“On my way to Doha with a special invite from Supreme Committee, which is responsible for organising the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, to attend FIFA draw with a number of world stars and delegations from the qualified teams,” he said in a tweet.
إلى الدوحة باذن الله بدعوة خاصة وكريمة من اللجنة العليا للمشاريع والإرث المسئولة عن تنظيم بطولة كأس العالم قطر 2022 🇶🇦، لحضور فعاليات قرعة المونديال ضمن كوكبة من نجوم العالم ووفود المنتخبات المتأهلة.
ربنا يكتب لمنتخب مصر نصيب فيها 🇪🇬🙏 pic.twitter.com/zYHujl3726
— Ibrahim fayek – إبراهيم فايق (@IbrahimFayek) March 28, 2022
His ‘all-inclusive’ business class trip to Doha came less than a year after he attacked the Gulf nation on his social media platforms during the blockade— a tone that seems to have changed after the return of diplomatic ties and SC’s recent invite.
“Qatar’s happiness with the handball final is exactly like someone who just bought a new car but can’t drive so he just plays with the buttons and the car horn and when he actually wants to drive he hires a driver instead,” he said sarcastically in a tweet.
“Let this what-so-called country live secluded from the rest of the Arab world and know its place! [size of a bedroom and a living room without even a bathroom],” he said in another tweet.
— Jassim (@jassimrj) March 29, 2022
The shift in the narrative was called out by several social media users, who accused organisers of ignoring national sentiments and called on authorities to stop inviting and sponsoring those who attacked the country during critical times.
“We are not against the entry of those who offended Qatar, including media professionals, artists and others. Qatar is open to all. However, sending them an invite and hosting them is what we reject,” said Hassan Hamoud, a well-known local social media user.
“There is no hospitality in hosting these people. It provokes and disrespects the feelings of many, if not all, Qataris. Have some respect for our feelings.”
لسنا ضد دخول من أساء لقطر من إعلاميين وفنانين وغيرهم فقطر مفتوحة للجميع ولكن دعوتهم واستضافتهم ما نرفضه
ليس في استضافة هؤلاء كرم ضيافة بل سذاجة واستفزاز لمشاعر الكثير من أهل قطر إن لم يكن لهم جميعاً
— حسن حمود (@BoHomoud007) March 29, 2022
Sports diplomacy, or straight hypocrisy?
This is not the first time such provocation has occurred. In the last couple of months, several influencers and media figures have been invited to Qatar despite their inciting claims against the country during the illegal blockade.
The most recent of which was the United Arab Emirates-based influencer, Maryam Al-Yassi’s invitation to The Merwad Exhibition in Doha. The controversial blogger made several provocative comments during the blockade that have been perceived as ‘anti-Qatar.’
One of them was telling Qataris that they had to ‘accept’ that they and their leadership are in the wrong ‘before it gets too late.’
In February, a pro-Sisi Egyptian journalist appeared on the Qatar-based Al Kass TV, despite previously accusing the Gulf state of “sheltering terrorists”. Abu El Maaty Zaki was invited by the same entity that recently invited Ibrahim Fayek, the Qatar Football Association.
Zaki, who claimed Qatar repeatedly “killed” his people and “sheltered terrorists”, appeared on appeared on the TV channel’s Majlis programme for an episode covering the FIFA Club World Cup, which was held in Doha in 2021.
In a tweet posted in 2018, Zaki described Qatar as “the axis of evil” that sows discord against Saudi Arabia.
“May God curses the rulers of Qatar and Turkey and all those who support them against Saudi Arabia,” he added in the tweet.
Similar to Fayek and Al-Yassi, Zaki’s presence sparked outrage on Twitter, with users demanding his appearance be cancelled for his previous anti-Qatar remarks. Nothing happened, however, and other controversial names were still invited to Doha less than a month later.
Most of the comments made by the names mentioned have not been mere opposition to Qatar, but featured heavily the spreading of misinformation and incitements of xenophobia against the country.
Questions have been raised by several members of the community on why public funds and resources are being used to invite such people.