Criticism of Qatar's Sharia law is racist, ‘Qatarophobia,’ MSNBC host claims - opinion

MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan stated in 2021 that he considered himself "an anti-Zionist and critic of the Israeli state," and calls Israel "apartheid."

 SOME 10,000 Israelis are expected to head to Doha for the World Cup that starts on Sunday. (photo credit: JOHN SIBLEY/REUTERS)
SOME 10,000 Israelis are expected to head to Doha for the World Cup that starts on Sunday.
(photo credit: JOHN SIBLEY/REUTERS)

My love for soccer started when I was five. In fact, I still play on an adult co-ed team in Tucson and love the sport. It’s been great to see so many people supporting and watching the sport I love.

However, it’s important to note that the 2022 World Cup has led many of us to speak out against the shabby human rights record of the host nation of Qatar, an absolute dictatorship run by Emir Tamim and the al-Thani family. Others have attempted to deflect all criticism of Qatar as what MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan calls “Qatarophobia.”

He alleges that all criticism of Qatar’s strict Sharia law is racist, so we must ignore the fact that in Qatar, unmarried women are banned from receiving sexual health and prenatal care. This would also ignore that in Qatar, sex between people of the same gender is illegal and can include a maximum penalty of death by stoning. 

MSNBC host, the anti-Zionist

What a stark contrast between Hasan’s bodyguarding of Qatar, with his constant attack-dog stance versus the sole Jewish-majority country, the State of Israel. Hasan stated in 2021 that he considers himself “an anti-Zionist and critic of the Israeli state and its ongoing ethnic cleansing project,” and calls Israel “a government that practices apartheid.”

General view of a message of the World Cup Qatar 2022 displayed on the pitch before the match, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar, November 20, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)General view of a message of the World Cup Qatar 2022 displayed on the pitch before the match, Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar, November 20, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/FABRIZIO BENSCH)

Hasan also called it a “very dangerous idea that says being pro-Jewish means you have to be pro-Israeli.” This forced Dani Dayan, former consul-general of Israel in New York City, to respond that when Hasan “‘only’ denies Jews the right of self-determination in any part of their homeland… Call it what you like, but that’s blatant bigotry.”

Hasan’s vicious attacks on Israel compare to his hefty protection of Qatar, for whose state media he was a longtime spokesman as a presenter on Al Jazeera. As the official mouthpiece of the emirate of Qatar, Al Jazeera gives Qatar outsized heft in regional diplomacy, which it uses to promote the Islamist terrorist group Hamas, which it physically hosts and funds by millions annually.

For his time with the Qatari network, Hasan was later forced to apologize for remarks comparing non-Muslims and atheists to cattle, and calling homosexuals “transgressive.” It’s a small wonder at a network with a long history of bigotry, hatred and antisemitism.

Hasan has minimized Qatar’s abuses of its migrant labor force. At least 400 to 500 migrant workers are said to have died in projects connected to the World Cup tournaments. In contrast, Hasan has urged support for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which calls not for peace, but for Israel’s destruction. He criticized the United Arab Emirates for playing Israel’s anthem, “Hatikvah,” during the peacemaking visit of President Isaac Herzog. 

Hasan claims he is a proud leftist, despite his being outspokenly opposed to a woman’s right to choose and having publicized his anti-choice beliefs at a time when American women have been losing their access to often lifesaving prenatal care.

We should also ask how he can maintain that he is a proud progressive while providing cover to a regime that denies kosher food and public Jewish prayer to World Cup visitors, and cracked down on world media during the global event.

We must be alert to the double standards that figures like Hasan are increasingly mainstreaming in the American press, demonizing democratic Israel while bolstering autocratic regimes.

The writer is a Democratic member of the Arizona House of Representatives for the 3rd district. On Twitter: @almaforarizona.