The Arab World’s Tiny Giant

Doug Bandow profiles Qatar, the minuscule nation throwing more and more weight around in the Middle East:

This activist foreign policy rests on a docile population at home. Observed Jane Kinninmont of Chatham House: “Qatar’s behavior is explained partly by its complete lack of fear of domestic unrest.” As a result, Sheikh Hamad has given his own people none of the democratic freedoms he promotes abroad. [Christopher] Blanchard called the emir’s course one of “very limited political liberalization.” The only opinions that matter are those of members of the ruling family. Indeed, the baby steps taken, including formally granting the franchise to women, “constitute a facet of the Qatari state-branding strategy, since they are designed to legitimize the Qatari regime in the eyes of the international community,” argued [Professor Sultan] Bakarat.

But not all of Qatar’s foreign policy decisions have paid off. Jeffrey Goldberg notes that “Qatar pumped a lot of money into Mursi’s Muslim Brotherhood government” and that “Mursi represented its main chance to advance the cause of Islamic fundamentalism.” Goldberg also takes Qatar-funded Al Jazeera to task for spreading Muslim Brotherhood’s bile:

If it’s been a bad week for Qatar and Al Jazeera, it’s been a very bad week for the network’s star broadcaster, the televangelist Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a Sunni cleric who is a spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. Qaradawi has been Al Jazeera’s most important star for many years. His show, “Shariah and Life,” is seen by millions across the Middle East.

As I reported this week, Qaradawi is an extremist’s extremist: He endorses female genital mutilation (he doesn’t refer to it that way, of course); he has called for the punishment of gay people; he has provided theological justification to insurgents who targeted American troops for death in Iraq (though he’s hypocritically silent on the decision of his Qatari patrons to allow the U.S. to locate a Central Command headquarters on their soil); he has defended the idea that the penalty for some Muslims who leave Islam should be death; and also, by the way, he believes that Hitler’s Final Solution was a nifty idea.