eyes, the Qatari authorities seem to keep a relatively tight rein on freedom of expression and moves for equality; but when compared to neighbors like Saudi Arabia, Qatar boasts one of the best standards-of-living and quality-of-life in its region.
In Qatar, the ruling Al Thani (الثاني) family continued to hold power following the declaration of independence in 1971. The Emir functions as head of state, and the right to rule Qatar resides within the Al Thani family. Politically, Qatar has started to evolve from a traditional society in the direction of a traditional modern welfare state. In order to meet the requirements of social and economic progress, the authorities have established Government departments.
The Basic Law of Qatar (1970) institutionalized local customs rooted in Qatar's conservative Wahhabi heritage, granting the Emir pre-eminent power. Continuing traditions of consultation, rule by consensus, and the citizen's right to appeal personally to the Emir all influence the Emir's role. The Emir, while directly accountable to no one, cannot violate the Shari’a
(Islamic law) and, in practice, must consider the opinions of leading notables and of the religious establishment. The Advisory Council, an appointed body that assists the Emir in formulating policy, has institutionalized the position of such influential groups. Qatar has no electoral system, and imposes a ban on political parties.
The influx of expatriate Arabs has introduced ideas that call into question the tenets of Qatar's traditional society, but no serious challenge to Al Thani rule has emerged.
In February 1972, the Deputy Ruler and Prime Minister, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, deposed his cousin, Emir Ahmad, and assumed power. The key members of Al Thani supported this move, which took place without violence or signs of political unrest.
On June 27
, the Deputy Ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa, deposed his father Emir Khalifa in a bloodless coup. Emir Hamad and his father reconciled in 1996. Increased freedom of the press followed, and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera
television channel (founded in late 1996) has acquired a unique reputation as a free and uncensored source of news in Arab countries.
Almost all Qatari women wear the black abaya
(also donned in Saudi Arabia
) - however, Qataris do not universally impose the style on foreigners.
The country has undergone a period of liberalization and modernization after the current Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, came to power after overthrowing his father. For example, women can dress pretty much as they please in public (although in practice local Qatari women generally don the black abaya
). The laws of Qatar tolerate alcohol
to a certain extent. However, public bars in Qatar operate only in expensive hotels (whereas the emirates of Dubai
allow the establishment of nightclubs and other venues). A further liberalization may take place in order to accommodate the 15th Asian Games