One of the most prestigious and largest department stores in Europe, Harrods is visited by a great number of Londoners and tourists on an everyday basis. The enchanting lights bundling its flawlessly designed architecture and its dreamy shoe heaven makes the city of London even more glamorous. However, a number of articles published by The Telegraph and its sister newspaper The Sunday Telegraph have cast a shadow on the glamour of Harrods. According to The Telegraph, Qatar, the current owner of Harrods, is “accused of either directly funding terrorist groups or turning a blind eye to financiers operating out of the Gulf state.” Could this be possible? Is our money spent in Harrods supporting terrorism in the Middle East?
The allegations of Harrods supporting terrorism goes back to the fact that it is now owned by Qatar, after Mohammed Al-Fayed sold the department store to Qatar Holdings. As the residents of London, most of us are aware that Qatar owns or co-owns a number of landmarks in the UK, such as Harrods, the Shard, which is actually Europe’s tallest skyscraper, the Olympic Village and stakes in some major UK businesses.
So, Qatar has pretty close ties to the UK. However, according to DOHA news, “Qatar’s close ties to the UK have been called into question by some conservative members of Parliament, who, incensed by recent beheadings by extremist groups, are urging their government to ‘get tough’ on the Gulf state.” For example, Baroness Cox, a cross-bench peer who founded an international aid charity, told The Telegraph that “As a principle, if people are using their wealth to support barbaric acts of terrorism, they should not be making money in our country and basking in the credibility of such a prestigious place.” So now, Harrods is facing a boycott due to these allegations.
The Telegraph reports that they have been highlighting “the links between a network of Qatari money-men and terrorist fighters on the ground in Syria and Iraq… in a series of exposés.” They seem to be calling us the shoppers and the UK government to take action, in order to question Harrods and the Qatari Government. The newspaper writes that Mark Lewis, the solicitor who represented the family of Milly Dowler among others in the News of the World phone hacking scandal, said: “We can stand back and do nothing, but when we do, we are paying for that terror… People need to know where their money is going.”
The Telegraph also reports that there has already been a protest outside the Qatari embassy, and now other Qatar-owned businesses including Harrods are targeted. The protesters stated that they “will ensure that Harrods customers know that the money they spend ultimately ends up in the hands of a regime that funds terrorism.”
On the other hand, Qatar’s leaders have repeatedly denied the allegations that the country is supporting terrorism. The Emir told CNN in September that he did not accept anyone funding terrorist in Iraq and Syria. “We don’t fund extremists. If you talk about certain movements, especially in Syria and Iraq, we all consider them terrorist movements,” the Emir said. He stated that the rules of the country are clear, “as long as you’re here, you can’t practice politics against any other Arab country.” Moreover, Middle East Monitor accuses The Telegraph of being “seemingly politically-motivated”, as “The Telegraph (is) a paper close to the ruling Conservative party”. The Telegraph, according to the Middle East Monitor, has published seven reports in two weeks on the subject, “all authored or co-authored by senior correspondent Robert Mendick” and “has sought to lump together the Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda and even ISIS, so as to leave Qataris open to charges of supporting and financing terrorism.”
To be honest, the possibility of Qatar supporting terrorist groups such as ISIS is sending shivers down our spines. The Qatar-owned places in London are regularly visited, after all. We definitely would not want ourselves or our money to be a part of this. Then again, blaming a country of such a great crime is a big risk. Maybe it is better to wait and see both parties prove their claims further and take action. Harrods has been quiet on the matter; they might start with answering the allegations, for example. Until then, though, we might be a little hesitant to shop at Harrods.