The decision by Doha’s only off-licence to start selling pork products in December has resulted in online controversy, with expatriates and locals split on the surprise move by the retailer.
Accessible only to non-Muslims with an alcohol licence, the QDC store in Doha began selling packets of sausages and bacon from QR28 ($7.6) in the run up to Christmas. The move was welcomed by many pork-loving expatriate workers, with stocks reportedly selling out in a matter of hours.
“It’s very good news,” one resident told the Qatar Living website, while another hoped this would be the start of a wider roll out of pork products to other outlets across the city.
“Good move! But still hope that Qatar someday will follow the same as in DUBAI & OMAN where there are NON-MUSLIM section in SPINNEYS & AL-FAIR respectively in which pork products are available,” another reader commented.
While there were reports QDC may increase its supplies in the wake of the popularity of the produce, or even open a second store, some observers have said the ban on pork products should be reinstated.
“They should not sell it. It only appeals to some expatriates in Qatar, albeit a tiny percentage of them, and like any country in the world it is reasonable enough to expect some degree of respect for the local laws and norms. Qatar is a pretty liberal place any ways, and the people who do eat pork, will not be giving up too much in other ways by not eating it,” one commentator said.
The move has been condemned by others who see it as a step too far and an insult to the local Muslim population. “What’s next? legalization of abortion in Qatar??” said one outraged reader, while another online opponent of the move has set up a ‘Stop Pork in Qatar’ online group.
The only other venue pork is available to buy in Qatar is the American Military Base, but this is only available to American military personnel.
The backlash against the sale of pork comes as it was revealed restaurants and bars on Qatar’s flagship Pearl development have seen revenues slump by more than 50 percent in the wake of a new ruling banning the sale of alcohol to customers.
Outlets on the manmade island off the coast of Doha were told on Dec 12 they could no longer serve booze to guests in what is seen as a display of tension between Qatar’s Muslim culture and its largely expatriate population.
Managers of restaurants located on the popular tourist spot said they had received no explanation for the ban or any indication on whether it might be lifted in the future.
“Every restaurant on the Pearl is banned [from selling alcohol],” said Sumeet Jhingan, country manager for Foodmark, the hospitality arm of retail giant Landmark Group. “We don’t know if it is indefinite, there was nothing in writing or communicated to us as to how long it is going to last.”
Qatar has shot to fame in recent years, thanks in part to an ambitious investment strategy that saw it snap up trophy assets such as Harrods, and stakes in Barclays, J Sainsbury’s and the London Stock Exchange.
The wealthy Gulf emirate in 2010 won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup, the first Arab country to do so. Doha has pledged to spend some $88bn on infrastructure and hotels over the next decade as it gears up to hold the world’s most-watched sporting event.
But the country’s rapid modernisation has raised fears among the local population that Qatar’s national identity could be diluted by the influx of expatriates and foreign investment.
Qatar Airways, Doha’s flag carrier, is currently the subject of a Twitter campaign that calls, in part, for a ban on serving alcohol on its flights in line with Islamic values.