World Cup Criticisms: Why You can (and Should) Fight for LGBTQ Rights Even in Another Country.
Are the Westerners pushing their beliefs onto another culture unjustly? I say no.
For those like myself who aren't avid soccer fans, you likely heard about this current event through social media or maybe through the news. Here's the rundown.
The FIFA World Cup is an international football (soccer) competition that is hosted by Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). The competition happens every four years and similar to the Olympics, countries worldwide bid to host the event years in advance. In 2010 Qatar won the bid to host the 2022 Cup.
Qatar is a small country located on the Arabian Peninsula. The nation's official religion is Islam with over 67% of the population identifying as Muslim.
Because of this, there were certain rules the international audience had to abide by to respect Islamic customs like not drinking alcohol in the stadium, for example. Ahead of the Cup, Qatar State Department said anyone proselytizing for other religions or criticizing Islam "may be criminally prosecuted."
This is the basis on which people are criticizing the captains of several European teams for wanting to wear "OneLove" armbands. The bands were created by the Dutch Football Association to promote inclusivity and unity. The band's design features a rainbow heart, which has led many people to associate it with the LGBTQIA+ community, even though it actually symbolizes all kinds of diversity and unity (racial, sexual, neuronic, etc). It's also important to note that in Qatar homosexuality and same-sex relationships are illegal.
Hours before the FIFA World Cup began, FIFA released a statement saying that they would impose penalties on any players who wore the OneLove band. Not wanting to risk their captains being ejected from the games, the teams did not wear the armbands.
Their country their rules
This is the argument people on social media are using to justify why the team captains shouldn't have wanted to wear the OneLove armband in the first place. Plenty of people online are referencing the fact that Westerners have a bad habit of pushing their beliefs on people from different cultures. This is true, however, I don't think it applies here.
Wearing the OneLove armband was a form of a simple, peaceful protest, even though it was not meant to be. Protests are often uncomfortable and perceived as disrespectful to the people or ideology being protested against. I'm sure many Qataris felt disrespected by the captains wanting to wear the armbands. That is the point. It's the friction of right and wrong that causes this discomfort. And through this, change is made.
To say "their country, their rules" is not reason enough to condemn these players for wanting to protest in the name of unity. Once upon a time, black athletes went to the Olympic games in Nazi Germany. Many of those black medalists refused to salute Hitler. Do we look back on them and think that was not their place? Do we think "Hitler's country, his rules"? Surely not.
You see, both those black athletes and the team captains at the FIFA World Cup were protesting in the name of human rights. You don't need to know about Islam or Qatari customs to have a right to speak on this issue. The issue of love is universal. Anyone can and should fight for it.
Not everyone has a right to speak on everything
It is true for many issues, that to be able to comment on what is going on in another country, you should withhold your judgment if you don't live there, are significantly knowledgeable on it or at least have some tie to that culture.
As an American, I myself have three intersecting identities; American, Bajan, and Jamaican. But notice that I simply refer to myself as American (first generation). I was born here, and I've lived here all of my life but my Caribbean identities have helped shape me into the person I am. I care about those aspects of my identity deeply, but I am careful to not claim them as fully my own. I have been to both Jamaica and Barbados countless times which allows me to be close to those cultures.
But the difference between me, and people who are native to those islands, is I get to choose what I take from those cultures. I get to go there for vacation, and I get to cherry-pick the best of my Caribbean identities, while natives are stuck with the good and the bad. I get to experience their rhythm but I don't get their blues, so to speak. Because of this, I don't think I have the right to assert my opinion on their politics or matters that concern their way of life. There are plenty of Westerners who can relate to this situation and yes, they should recognize more often where they'd do best to withhold their judgment or opinions.
But again, the exception to this is matters of human rights. Love is universal therefore anyone can speak to it. The LGBTQIA+ community is a global one, and there are LGBTIA+ individuals in Qatar who could benefit (however slightly) from seeing the OneLove symbol on their TVs.
Thanks for reading through! This might be the first opinion post I've written here! Let me know what you think over on insta @ariels_view. I'm always open to discussion :)