“In Search of the Merits of Colonialism” is a jaunty little article in Al Jazeera that revels in their typical fare: bashing the West. Like many think-pieces it slams the British Empire for shamelessly plundering the world to enrich itself at the expense of black and brown people.
Fair enough (although a little unimaginative). But look a little closer and the piece seems to have scored something of an own goal (a goal accidentally scored for the opposite side).
Just take a look at this little paragraph, in which author Laleh Khalili excoriates (quite rightly) post-colonial dictators for their continued commitment to brutality:
“The authoritarian rulers to whom the colonial masters handed the keys to the city pay lip service to democracy but stifle political participation by unruly publics; and in this they are supported by former colonial masters who value their ‘stability’ and loyalty.”
Although the article mentions Singapore before launching, in classic Al Jazeera style, into a lengthy diatribe against Israel, there is one country that is rather conspicuous by its absence, especially given how completely it fits the bill: Qatar.
Let’s see what Human Rights Watch has to say in their 2016 report on Qatar:
“Low-paid migrant workers continued to face abuse and exploitation, and reforms that took effect in 2016 leave the exploitative elements of the old kafala (sponsorship) system in place and do not cover domestic workers. Qatar-based journalists criticized the manner in which the authorities applied the provisions of a 2014 cybercrime law.”
This is not to mention that “Qatar’s penal code provides for a maximum of five years in jail for criticism of the emir.”
That covers the “authoritarian rulers” part, but what about “colonial masters?”
Take a look at these words written by the prime minister of Qatar in The Guardian during a trip by the emir of Qatar to London in 2014:
“For almost a century, the UK and Qatar have had strong bonds. It was in 1916 that we first bound together our two countries in a treaty of friendship. Those ties have become stronger, with increasingly important trade and political links. Today we regard the UK as among our most steadfast friends and allies.”
Ah yes, Qatar became a British protectorate in 1916.
But are they being praised for “stability?” Let’s have a quick look at what then British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani said in a joint statement during another visit to London in 2010:
“And so they committed to building a stronger and deeper relationship between the UK and the State of Qatar, based on a shared vision of new links and new relationships including on foreign policy, peace and regional stability, trade and investment, education, culture, sport and science.”
Some of you may be asking, all very interesting, but why is this an “own goal?” Well, open a new tab in your browser and quickly Google “who owns Al Jazeera?”