Qatar's recent suspension of alcohol sales in The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island off the country's capital of Doha, brings into focus the conflict between the state's Islamic culture and expanding expatriate influence, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal.
The WSJ notes that the indefinite ban on booze was brought down by the Qatari government on Dec. 12 with no reason given. Residents allegedly cite an increase in Muslims drinking alcohol and loud parties on Pearl-Qatar. Restaurants on the island and hotels throughout Doha cater to a Western audience, but traditional Wahabbi Islam, which many Qataris observe, prohibits the consumption of alcohol and pork. Al Arabiya reports that restaurant sales have declined by 50 percent since the ban on alcohol went into effect.
The conflict stems in part from an investment in tourism, as Qatar is set to host the 2022 World Cup and recently announced a bid for the 2020 Olympic games, hoping to follow in the footsteps of Russia, which won the rights to host the 2014 Winter Olympics and the 2018 World Cup. The Associated Press reports that Qatar expects some 500,000 visitors for the 2022 World Cup, when soccer fans will be allowed to drink alcohol in designated zones.
The Persian Gulf state has $100 billion in infrastructure investment underway in anticipation of the global soccer event, with the Doha International Airport to open later this year and more than 21,000 hotel rooms to be added by the end of 2012, according to The Atlantic Cities.
A December report by the International Monetary Fund projected Qatar's economy to grow by 19 percent in 2012, which makes it the fastest-growing economy in the world, according to Businessweek.