The Question of Qatar
October 15, 2017
In June 2017 a number of Gulf States led by Saudi Arabia severed diplomatic relations with neighboring Qatar, objecting to its moderate Islam and tolerance of other religions. In late August Qatar announced it would restore full diplomatic recognition of Shi'a-majority Iran. For decades Qatar has been lauded for its long-standing policy of promoting its own tolerant brand of Islam even as it pursues its own state interests outside the grasp of Saudi suzerainty, the regional power on the Western side of the Persian Gulf and a country that practices Wahhabism, a conservative brand of Sunni Islam. These policies contrast with those of neighboring Bahrain, a Saudi client-state ruled by a Sunni minority, where Shi'a are distinguished from Sunni through a mandatory dress code and are unequally treated. Since 9/11 Western elites have been longing for “moderate” Muslim leaders. Qatar, though an absolute monarchy, has fostered the sort of openness that Westerners hold dear, and it is now under siege by Saudi Arabia, the major Muslim ally of the United States. In this article published in the October 2017 English edition of La Civilta Cattolica, Drew Christiansen, S.J., and Jocelyne Cesari probe this complex situation.