But Qatar is ready to learn -- and not from books. It invites hundreds of Western intellectuals to pave the way for the country with trade fairs and investment possibilities. As opposed to the popular misconceptions about the country, Qatar provides an atmosphere of both freedom and security. It is almost impossible to see police forces in the streets that one would see in other Arab countries as the strong arm of the authority. Western and Asian women wear whatever they want and local women, though still in traditional garments, stand up for their ideas, discuss issues with their male colleagues and shape the future of the country together with them. The future world won't be shaped by large and elephantine countries but by small, mobile, fast-changing, fast-adapting countries. Qatar is certainly a candidate for a leading role in international politics. Together with other Gulf countries Qatar is also disproving the long held conviction that with the oil reserves consumed these countries would be doomed to poverty and conditions similar to the Middle Ages. Thanks to the funds created by the oil dollars Qatar is already producing more than the oil wells provide -- green attracts more green than black does. Today's Zaman spoke to the Ambassador of Qatar to Turkey H.E. Abd al-Razzak al-Abdul Ghani and asked about the future vision of his country.
I attended the Eighth Doha Forum for Democracy, Development and Free Trade in Qatar, and I observed that Qatar has a different vision from many of the Arab states with regard to democracy, development and the future of the Arab world. What is the source of this vision?
As you said this forum is the eighth of its kind among the many international conferences held in Qatar. The forum is based on three pillars, which are democracy, development and then free trade. In my opinion, the first and second pillars are the most important and basic ones to prepare the necessary atmosphere for free trade. Of course, each state has its own vision for the future and its own region, and through this vision, the country can coexist with the peoples of that region. Democracy is a concept and even a lifestyle chosen for the coexistence of peoples, and as a result these visions come from the heart of these peoples. Since his accession to power, H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, started to restructure the affairs as well as the administrative and political apparatus of the country on a modern basis. His reforms aimed to create wider avenues of public participation in national decision-making to bolster the role of people in managing public affairs, hand in hand with deepening the Shura approach and consolidating the principles of freedom. In this way the country vision arose and evolved over time.
One of the expressions of this future vision is the Al-Jazeera TV Network, headquartered in Doha. It is already broadcasting in English and Arabic now and was one of the main alternative information sources during the occupation of Iraq. Can you elaborate on the contribution of Al-Jazeera to the Arab culture and the image of Muslims worldwide?
We are proud that we have a channel such as Al-Jazeera satellite, which evolved and developed over a short period, gaining a reputation in the world and starting to compete with major satellite channels. As you know, the channel's motto is "The opinion and the other opinion," which constitutes the basis of democracy. As to your question about to what extent Al-Jazeera shares in Arab culture and in introducing Muslims in general throughout the world, Al-Jazeera is an original Arab media service of Arab media origins; of course through its cultural programs and news, it has given and is still giving great services in this field. In terms of introducing Muslims' image to the world, we see Al-Jazeera is always there wherever there is an event, and I, as a viewer, think that Al-Jazeera is not limited only to Muslims, but rather reflects the image of all peoples and cultures.
The development models I observed in Qatar and in Dubai were different in the sense that Qatar seemed to be building its future without compromising its traditions. It is creating an alternative modernity, I assume. Am I right about this?
Of course each state has its own future prospects that the country adopts and works to achieve, and for some years our country witnessed big campaigns in its development and evolution. Also, the steps made in the field of development must be based on the rules of science, technology and advanced management. That is because these rules are renewable every day and very quickly; it is imperative to introduce all that is modern to be able to keep pace with the age in which we live. But, we cannot abandon our traditions and cultural heritage during the development stage, as we must also depend on these traditions and cultural heritage because they are the basis for everything; in addition to that, we must make full use of the new modernizations and developments. I think you noticed during your visit to our country particularly that urban development in the country reflects our old heritage while reflecting the modern as well.
The democratization process is also different. Qatar wants to have participation of the people in the elections and democracy, but does not want the kind of imposed democracy we see in Iraq. Can we say then that Qatar is actually resisting this imposition by creating its own alternatives?
I said previously in answer to the first question that democracy is a concept and even a lifestyle chosen for the coexistence of peoples. So, democracy is not similar to some goods imported from one place to another or something imposed on people in any way. Each country has its own way to build its own democracy. Every human system has limits and rules, and democracy also has its limits and rules.
Democracy does not mean to give individuals absolute freedom to violate the rights of others. In short, democracy is people's participation and respect for human rights. From this standpoint, however, since H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani came to power in 1995, the option of democracy was created in Qatar.
That was the beginning of the democratic movement in the country and of building a state of law and institutions. In 1996 the first elections were held for the board of the Qatari Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Then in 1998 a decree was issued to elect municipal council members, followed by the elections of the first municipal council by direct suffrage in 1999.
In the year 2003, there was a referendum on the draft permanent constitution for the country. It was followed by several developments in all fields.
Qatari women started to assume their leading role in the march of democracy; then in 2003 the first Qatari woman was appointed to the post of minister. Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned, the spouse of His Highness the Emir, played an active role in empowering and activating the role of women in all fields. Her highness is the president of the Qatar Foundation, which seeks to develop the capacities of people through a network of centers devoted to education, advanced research and the development of society.
As everyone knows Her Highness Sheikha Mozah Bint Nasser Al Missned is playing a leading role in achieving the required rapprochement and understanding between societies and Islamic civilizations on one side and Christian communities and Western civilizations on the other through the initiative of the Alliance of Civilizations launched by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Qatar is a small but wealthy country. Many countries, including Turkey, are after Qatar's hot currency. Where is the petrol income of Qatar going?
Qatar has the third largest reserve of natural gas in the world and is vigorously seeking to market liquefied natural gas (LNG) and aspires to become the top source of gas in the world. Studies indicate that the Qatar gas reserves are sufficient for the coming 200 years.
The economy of the State of Qatar depends largely on energy sources. The north gas field in Qatar is one of the largest natural gas fields in the world.
Despite the state's small area, Qatar is considered one of the Arab countries that has achieved high rates of economic success during the recent boom years. Qatar is working very actively on marketing the products of the gas sector, resulting in the conclusion of several long-term contracts for the sale and purchase of these resources with various countries such as Japan, South Korea, the United States, Britain, Spain, Italy and other countries.
It is expected that Turkey will also need Qatari natural gas in the year 2010, and there are some ongoing talks at the official level in this regard.
I can say what you saw in Qatar, all these developments and construction are thanks to the wise leadership managing the country and thanks to the best use of state revenues from such natural wealth.
What percent of Qatar's foreign investments are coming to Turkey? Do you foresee an increase in that number?
The fields of cooperation between Qatar and Turkey are open and multiple. Such fields and opportunities materialize in countries through the conclusion of certain agreements that protect and encourage investors on both sides.
The State of Qatar and the Republic of Turkey have signed two important agreements in this field, namely the agreement on the avoidance of double taxation and the agreement on the encouragement and protection of mutual investments.
In return, there are initiatives by Qatari businessmen and the Qatari government for more investments in the field of tourism, construction and other fields in Turkey. Although this percentage is still limited at the present time, there is political will in both countries to give impetus for more cooperation in this field. In addition, urging businessmen to look at opportunities for cooperation and facilitating their work through periodic meetings of the Joint Economic Committee are other key actions.
Within this context, on April 30, 2008, the Turkish-Qatari Businessmen Council was held in Istanbul with the presence of H.E. Zafer Çağlayan, the minister of industry and commerce of the Republic of Turkey, and a group of businessmen from both countries.
The council was established during the visit of His Excellency Abdullah Gül, the Turkish president, to Doha in early February 2008.
What about tourism? With its hotels and conference centers Qatar is an attractive tourist destination and so is Turkey. Is the mutual influx of tourism at a good level?
Tourism in Qatar is on its way toward development. There are some projects under construction in the country. I believe that with the completion of these projects, they will definitely attract tourists to Qatar. There are also some decisions that have been taken to facilitate access to visas for tourists and businessmen directly upon their arrival at Doha airport.
Businessmen and tourists will be able to enter Qatar at the airport with an amount equivalent to 5,000 riyals ($1,400) or a valid credit card, in addition to having a round-trip ticket with a reservation at a hotel and a valid passport.
As for the Qatari tourists heading to Turkey, Turkey will grant holders of normal passports entry visas at Turkish airports. There are a large number of citizens of Qatar that visit Turkey during summer vacations to see historical landmarks and tourist areas.