Harrods is one of the icons on the landscape of London, becoming even more well known internationally in the 80s because the son of the chairman and owner, Mohamed Al-Fayed, was romantically linked to Princess Diana of Wales. Perhaps less well known is the fact that Al-Fayed sold the store to Qatar Holdings in 2010. This has prompted some recent calls for a boycott against the enterprise because of accusations that Qatar has been acting as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Customers of Harrods are being urged to boycott the department store in a symbolic protest against its Qatari owners.
Qatar, which bought Harrods in 2010, has been accused of either directly funding terrorist groups or turning a blind eye to financiers operating out of the Gulf state.
It is now facing a backlash from protesters sickened by the executions of Western hostages in Syria and the violence wreaked on the region by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (Isil), al-Qaeda and other offshoot terror groups.
It turns out that Qatar has been buying up all sorts of landmark buildings and businesses across Europe – and the rest of the world – while seeking to burnish their standing as international diplomatic leaders. And weren’t they supposed to be on our side? After all, they were the ones who set up the deal to have Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl released, right? (Perhaps the less said about that the better.)
But a couple of other items show up on their list of diplomatic coups. For one thing, they supposedly arranged a similar deal involving a large number of Fijian UN workers last month with the Al Nusra Front.
By reportedly paying groups like Al Nusra tens of millions of dollars to win the freedom of hostages, the gulf emirate is playing both ends against the middle and potentially jeopardizing the security of the U.S.-led coalition mission against Islamic State, critics say. They note that last week, 45 Fijian UN peacekeepers, who had been kidnapped while on patrol in the Syrian Golan Heights by the Al Nusra Front, were released unharmed following intervention from Qatar that allegedly included a $20 million payment.
On top of that, Salim Hasan Khalifa Rashid al-Kuwari was apparently employed by the Qatar government, despite having been designated as a terrorist by the United States. Other examples are on record. But is that the extent of their activities?
If Qatar’s only financial involvement with ISIS, Al Nusra, al-Qaeda and others is confined to paying ransoms, there may be some room for debate. It’s still bad news, as we don’t negotiate (directly) with terrorists, and their ability to create havoc is largely reliant on cash flow. But plenty of other nations – including our allies – frequently do pay ransoms as part of the price of doing business. It becomes something of a gray area in the international community if Qatar is just doing what France and other nations already do as well.
Of course, that would only be true if the paying of such ransoms is the only thing Qatar is doing. That seems to be an open question. When it comes to Qatar, if this were taking place in the Star Trek universe, they remind me a bit more of the Ferengi than the Federation. Still, they may rethink their position if these boycotts spread. Qatar seems to value business above any ideological or religious requirements.