Videos of crowds in several areas around the country during Eid have circulated on social media. They were perceived with two different views.
After a month of fasting and connecting with God during the holy month of Ramadan, residents in Qatar gather and celebrate Eid with their loved ones, some hundreds of kilometers away from their families.
Thousands of migrant workers headed out this week to enjoy the three-day holiday after months of extensive work.
But for some, the celebration appeared to ‘threaten’ their safety.
On the first day of Eid, malls, including the newly-opened Place Vendôme, were packed with hundreds of people, most of which were migrant workers from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Videos of the crowds were shared online, but one comment stood out from the rest.
Mohammed Hassan Al-Jefairi, a Qatari entrepreneur and an author, tweeted that he’s ‘frustrated’ that authorities allowed ‘that many’ migrant workers to enter malls during Eid as he feels unsafe for his family to be there sourrended by what he referred to as ‘single and mostly uneducated men.’
In the same tweet, the user also called on authorities to organise groups to ensure ‘the safety of our families.’ Such wording states that in the presence of a certain group of people, safety is questioned.
Some people also echoed his sentiments about creating a family-only place to prevent ‘certain groups’ from visiting.
The comments have been dubbed discriminatory and classist by many users (both Qatari and residents) who rushed to condemn the statements, stressing that everyone should be welcome to celebrate anywhere in the country.
“I am surprised by the criticism of some people regarding expats enjoying the nation’s facilities. They were not open to welcome one race over the other. It is not in our morals to belittle and not welcome others. How do you want to talk about development with such reactions?” another local tweeted, quoting the video and using #Everyone_is_welcome_in_Qatar hashtag.
Al Kass presenter Khalid Jassem also defended migrant workers and called on critics to let workers enjoy their off-days and avoid crowded locations if it bothered them.
“Workers have two days off. Let them forget, restore and be happy. If you can help with that, then may God do the same for you. If you don’t want to see them, they stay away from crowded places these two days and don’t disrespect them or slander them. Eid Mubarak,” his tweet, which had more than a thousand likes, read.
“Migrant workers don’t have annual leave, don’t have weekends off and don’t have any form of entertainment. On top of that, they work in the most difficult jobs. If you don’t like it, stay at home and don’t enslave people!” another user tweeted.
Poorly written or intentional?
After extensive social media backlash over the tweet, Al-Jefairi deleted his tweet and issued an apology, stating that it was worded poorly.
“I deleted the previous tweet for not being able to deliver my message correctly and I apologise for the misunderstanding,” he posted.
He later also explained that all workers are mentioned as long as the capacity is regulated, whether in malls, bathrooms, public places, children’s areas or women’s stores.
“Criticism is the duty every man in order preserve the entity of society, especially in the presence of a major imbalance in the demographic structure.”
Mall policy change
Despite the backlash, Place Vendôme announced on their social media pages that from the 4 to the 7 of May the mall would only be open to families, in addition to every Friday starting May 13, which is the only official day off for migrant workers.
The controversial announcement came just weeks after the biggest mall in the country open its doors for ‘the public.’
However, it seems now that certain sections of ‘all the public’ will only be allowed on certain days— a policy that will ultimately prevent workers from enjoying the facility on their day off.
This is not the first time such a policy is being implemented by retail centres. In the early and mid 2000’s, some malls around Doha had specific days designated for only families and women. No men over the age of 14 years of age were allowed to enter, including Qatari nationals.
It is still not yet clear if Place Vendôme will implement its newly announced policy across visitors from all nationalities and economic class.
In the meantime, the invidious policy has attracted fierce criticism online with comments on the mall’s Instagram page like “so a public mall, is closed to the public, on the public holidays?” and “what’s going to happen during the FIFA World Cup if a crowd made you take such a decision?”
Doha News contacted Place Vendôme mall and is waiting for a response.
What do you think about the decision? Tell us in the comments.