By Andrew Mills
DOHA – Qatar’s ruling emir on Tuesday warned the Gulf state against excessive tribalism he said endangered national unity, proposing a plan to promote equal citizenship through changes to legislation that has inflamed tribal sensitivities.
The emir, in a speech at the opening session of the advisory Shura Council, for which partial polls were held for the first time earlier this month, also urged Qataris to show “openness and tolerance” when Doha hosts the soccer World Cup next year.
The first legislative polls for two-thirds of the Council stirred debate about electoral inclusion and citizenship, after some members of a leading tribe found themselves ineligible to vote under a law restricting voting rights to Qataris whose family was present before 1930.
Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani said he instructed the cabinet to prepare legal amendments aimed at promoting “equal Qatari citizenship” and send them to the Council for approval.
“Nevertheless … Citizenship is not purely a legal issue, but is primarily civilizational and an issue of loyalty, belonging and duty, and not just rights,” he said, adding that tribal intolerance was a “disease”.
“Hateful intolerance, whether tribal or otherwise, could be manipulated and used to subvert and destroy national unity,” he added.
The Council will have legislative authority and approve general state policies and the budget, but has no say in the setting of defence, security, economic and investment policy. The emir continues to appoint 15 members of the 45-member body.
Kuwait has been the only Gulf monarchy to give substantial powers to an elected parliament, though ultimate decision-making rests with its ruler, as in neighbouring states.
Qatar is gearing up to host the World Cup soccer tournament next year and hopes to see 1.2 million fans visit the conservative Gulf state during the 28-day tournament.
Sheikh Tamim said the event would enhance Qatar’s global status and “demonstrate the openness and tolerance of the hospitable Qatari people”.
He also stressed the need to reduce “excessive dependence on the state” in a wide-ranging speech that touched on Qatar’s gas output expansion plans and economic diversification efforts.
The world’s biggest liquefied natural gas producer is one of the wealthiest nations per capita. It is home to some 3 million people, 85 percent of them foreign workers.