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Qatar punctures FIFA’s political fantasy

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  By James M. Dorsey To watch a video version of this story on YouTube please click  here. A podcast version is available on Soundcloud,   Itunes ,  Spotify ,  Spreaker , and   Podbean. If the Qatar World Cup proved anything, it’s that sports and politics are inseparable Siamese twins joined at the hip. Politics popped up at every twist of the World Cup's road, whether related to the right of freedom of expression of players, sports commentators and fans; anti-government protests in Iran; anti-Israeli sentiment among Qataris and Arabs; a backlash against Western, particularly German, critics of Qatar; or ultra-conservative religious rejection of soccer as a sport. Qatari efforts to stage manage the intrusion of regional politics ranged from picking and choosing which protests fit its foreign policy agenda to seeking to ensure, where possible, that events elsewhere in the region would not overshadow or inflame passions during the World Cup. Palestine is a case in poi

Hungary’s Victor Orban uses soccer to project Greater Hungary and racial exclusivism

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  By James M. Dorsey To watch a video version of this story on YouTube please click  here. A podcast version is available on Soundcloud,   Itunes ,  Spotify ,  Spreaker , and   Podbean. Hungary didn't qualify for the Qatar World Cup, but that hasn't stopped Prime Minister Victor Orban from exploiting the world's current focus on soccer to signal his Putinesque definition of central European borders as defined by civilization and ethnicity rather than internationally recognized frontiers. Mr. Orban drew the ire of Ukraine and Romania for wearing to a local Hungarian soccer match a scarf depicting historical Hungary , which also includes chunks of Austria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, and Serbia. It was the second time in a matter of months that Mr. Orban spelt out his irredentist concept of geography that makes him a member of a club of expansionist leaders that includes Russia's Vladimir Putin, China's Xi Jinping, Israel’s Benyamin Netanyahu, and membe

Protest emerges as a mixed blessing for World Cup host Qatar

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  By James M. Dorsey To watch a video version of this story on YouTube please click  here. A podcast version is available on Soundcloud,   Itunes ,  Spotify ,  Spreaker , and   Podbean. Protest on the soccer pitch has proven to be a mixed blessing for World Cup host Qatar, exposing double standards in the Gulf state’s position as well as that of its critics. Qatar embraced protest when it supported Qatari policies, such as the Gulf state's increasingly assertive denunciation of double standards in Western criticism of discrimination against LGBT people or its refusal to establish diplomatic relations with Israel in the absence of a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, protesters and foreign media quickly encountered the limits of Qatari tolerance and notions of freedom of expression when they touched on politically sensitive issues, ranging from support for LGBT rights to solidarity with demonstrators in Iran, who have defied a brutal crackdown by s

The Qatar World Cup: Soccer upsets, politics, and sensitive situations

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By James M. Dorsey To watch a video version of this story on YouTube please click  here. A podcast version is available on Soundcloud,   Itunes ,  Spotify ,  Spreaker , and   Podbean. Barely out of the starting blocks, the Qatar World Cup has already produced a fair share of upsets as well as politically and personally sensitive situations and incidents. Qatar's 2:0 loss to Ecuador in the tournament’s opening match will have reinforced critics' conviction that the Gulf state should never have been awarded World Cup hosting rights, among other things, because of its alleged lack of a soccer legacy. Leaving aside the merits of the allegation and Qatari disappointment, the jury remains out on what Qatar's return on its massive investment in organising the World Cup will be regarding reputational capital. For Qatar, the ultimate evaluation of the return will largely depend on how it manages the tournament and potential flare- and hick-ups as dissidents try to turn Ira

Behind lofty declarations, major Muslim and Hindu groups compete for power

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  By James M. Dorsey To watch a video version of this story on YouTube please click  here. A podcast version is available on Soundcloud,   Itunes ,  Spotify ,  Spreaker , and   Podbean. As Indonesia passed the chairmanship of the Group of 20 (G-20) to India earlier this month, major Muslim and Hindu organisations, some backed by their governments, are battling to define the role of religion in global politics and whether the world's significant faiths need reform to harness the power of their convictions. The battle's outcome could determine what constitutes religious moderation, the state's role in defining what religion stands for, and whether notions of reform will involve significant jurisprudential and doctrinal reforms aimed at erasing concepts of supremacy and enhancing principles of pluralism and greater freedom. The stage for the battle was set at the Religion Forum-20 (R-20), a gathering of religious leaders in Bali, earlier this month in advance of a summ