In Qatar, tentacles of tribalism hold back national aspirations
I remember reading a blog post about the perceived nationality-based class system in Qatar. According to the author, Qataris alongside Americans, were placed at the top of the social hierarchy – something that most commentators agreed to, and understandably so. However, whilst reading it, I was frustrated, not because I thought it was inaccurate, but rather because I thought that it was a seemingly simplistic overview of the inherent racial hierarchy that exists within Qatar. Even within Qatari society, there exists a hierarchy, a claim I’m certain some of my fellow citizens would scoff at. Nevertheless, it is a widely acknowledged, albeit surreptitiously discussed truth amongst us.
Tribalism is an inextricable facet of Qatari society, which doesn’t just affect the way we value ourselves within the tribal hierarchy, but also affects us in a multitude of other ways, influencing decisions and choices in our everyday lives.
One glaring example is the glass ceiling that exists in terms of careers in certain fields, for it is not always on merit that a person will be eligible to certain posts; it is ultimately his/her tribal affiliation, which will create the required wasta.
(tribalism) is a widely acknowledged, albeit surreptitiously discussed truth amongst us.”
If tribalism rears its ugly head in the public sphere, one can only imagine how much worse it gets while governing personal lives.
The very basis of tribes and tribalism is to form communities based on common cultural and ethnic interests. However, as a nation state evolves, to continue to adhere to tribalism at the cost of national interests would only create divisiveness.
Within the personal sphere, discrimination that stems from tribalism still prevails. In the issue of marriage for instance, it is typical in arranged marriages to search for a spouse with the tribe as the main criteria, overlooking other important factors, such as compatibility, level of education, moral values, etc. Conversely, many Qataris who would prefer to make their own choices in marriage are reluctant to do so for fear of backlash from their family and social circle if they don’t marry into the “right” tribe; the price of personal freedom is too high and not worth the hassle. Interestingly, few will dispute the fact that the increasing number of Qatari women who remain unmarried is to a significant degree correlated to this issue as many girls do not or cannot marry into other families.
Why stir the pot about us not being equal when we are generally more affluent and enjoy more rights than the majority?
But these privileges bestowed upon us should not inhibit us from addressing this important issue, as it not only affects how we treat each other, but translates to how we treat others who are less fortunate than us. After all, it is not merely a social issue, but it is one that’s contrary to our religious beliefs.
The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Indeed Allah has removed from you the blind loyalties of Jahiliyah and the pride for ancestry. Either be a pious believer, or a miserable proud. (All of) you are children of Adam (alaihi as-salâm) and Adam (alaihi as-salâm) is from dust. Let some men cease to take pride in others who are nothing but burning coals for the Hell-Fire, it will be easier for Allâh to handle them than a dung-beetle driving his nose into filth.” [Abu Dawûd and Ahmad].
Religion aside, how does tribal biases help Qatar, as it strives towards a knowledge-based economy? How does it hope to achieve that dream, in a society that predetermines a person’s worth and accomplishments based on their bloodline?
[Photo Courtesy: Gautham Krishna]