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World Cup 2022: Outrage against 'racist and Islamophobic' French cartoons of Qatari players

Social media users denounce satirical newspaper for caricatures that depict Arab men as long-bearded, angry, carrying weapons and wearing suicide vests
Caricature published by Le Canard enchainé in its October issues depicts Qatar's national team (Twitter/screengrab)
Caricature published by Le Canard enchainé in its October issues depicts Qatar's national team (Twitter/screengrab)

A French cartoon has caused outrage on social media for its "racist and Islamophobic" portrayal of the Qatar national football team ahead of the World Cup set to kick off in Doha later this month. 

Published last month by the French newspaper Le Canard enchaîné, the caricature uses stereotypical depictions of Arab men as long-bearded, angry, masked and carrying all kinds of weapons from machetes and guns to rocket launchers. A player with the famous number 10 shirt was portrayed wearing a suicide vest.

The satirical weekly has been criticised by many Twitter users who suggested the illustrations reflect a racist pattern in western criticism of Arabs and Qataris ahead of the World Cup, namely in the French press. 

"France gonna France," one user said

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Among those who flocked to criticise the cartoon was the Qatari minister of state and president of the Qatar National Library, Hamad al-Kawari, who urged the paper to at least show "some sportsmanship".

"Even harsh satire is welcome!!! But Le Canard enchaîné decided to resort to lies, hatred and resentment to attack Qatar and denigrate it," al-Kawari said

'Anti-Muslim hate'

The newspaper was also criticised by some for Islamophobic undertones in the cartoons. For example, some users pointed to the drawings of Muslim women on the front page of the October issue, where they are depicted wearing a full-body black covering.

"It is not new to them, as they have already mocked and insulted the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, in almost the same manner," one user said, referring to previous controversial cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in French media. 

"A despicable cartoon published by Le Canard Enchaîné that exposes its true racism and anti-Muslim hate," said another person. 

The online reaction to the cartoons comes amid growing frustrations among Qataris over mounting criticism of the country's alleged human rights abuses in international media ahead of the World Cup. 

Last week, Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani condemned what he called "hypocrisy" by western countries in their "attacks" against Doha.

He said the criticism was being made by a "minority of people", with critical European countries amongst those buying the most tickets.

"Among the ten countries that bought the most tickets, we find European countries like France," Al Thani said.

Several French cities, including Paris, announced earlier this year that they would not broadcast the tournament on large screens as a protest against the Qatari record on the environment and human rights. 

However, despite this criticism, France has signed a partnership with Qatar to provide security personnel at the World Cup, a decision that has attracted some criticism from French media.

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.

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