The Bisht Controversy
On Sunday, 18th of December, all eyes were on the Lusail Stadium, Qatar, where the whole world witnessed as Argentinians were crowned champions on their phenomenal win against France. However, all western media could focus on was the gesture where the emir of Qatar draped the Argentine Captain Lionel Messi in the “bisht”. A bisht is a cloak that has great significance in Arab culture, the warriors wore this cloak to celebrate their win against their enemies. It symbolizes prestige, honor, and stature. The Emir of Qatar celebrated Argentina’s win through this gesture and conveyed due respect to the captain of the winning team.
It is an honor to wear a bisht and especially when it is draped over you by a person of prestige, in this case, it was the emir of Qatar. It’s the same as a knighting or coronation. This made the closing ceremony even grander and symbolized what Messi has been able to accomplish by winning the trophy. He finally put an end to the debate over who is the greatest of all time.
Let us all call a spade a spade. The western media, once again, got exposed for its lack of diversity in their newsrooms. What was a true gesture of true respect was narrated as “a bizarre act that ruined one of the greatest moments of World cup history” by The Telegraph, which has now been redacted.
A simple gesture that has a cultural significance has been made controversial by these pundits and journalists all over the western media. What happened on the stage in no way overshadowed the dream of the Argentine captain. The western media outrage is not about what unfolded on the stage, rather it is an unwillingness to accept that celebrations look different in each culture and nation and are celebrated accordingly so.
The racism and orientalism that are rooted so deeply in the western narrative do not go beyond their prejudices. At no point during the ceremony did Messi himself show disdain over the bisht being draped over him, he graciously accepted the honorable gesture and lifted the well-deserved trophy. However, the western media twisted the gesture into something else to sate their fragile egos.
In all cultures, victorious athletes are celebrated according to their rituals and are given gifts and items that reflect their proud cultures. In the 1970s world cup victory against Mexico, Pele was awarded a sombrero and it was placed over his head as it is part of the Mexican culture. In no way, was this moment ruined by this cultural gesture. The same is the case here in Qatar,
The day Qatar got the right to host the 2022 FIFA World cup back in 2012, the west criticized the decision countless times, sometimes vaguely while other times downright boldly and crudely. The hypocrisy of the west was on display for everyone to see. Their ignorance regarding Islamic and Arab cultures was apparent and Messi’s bisht was the last show of this.
The Islamophobia and anti-arab ignorance showed through their shocking reactions over Moroccan victories and their celebrations with their abaya-clad mothers and their prostrations in the stadiums whether they won or lost. Their celebrations were mocked and they were called a family of monkeys. The prostration was a symbol of humility to God for Muslims all over the world. But one caption of a photo posted by ESPN read, “Moroccan players and staff bow in appreciation to their supporters that came out in force”. This was completely out of context and way out of line.
The players celebrating by pointing one finger to the sky were misconstrued as ISIL (ISIS) fighters by one of the German media outlets called Welt. In the United States, 40 percent of the population is not white yet the lack of representation in western newsrooms is not surprising as 90 percent of the top editors are white. Diversity needs to be introduced in the western media’s senior-level posts. Only then will there be a proper representation of all cultures and nations of the world.
Messi is adored all over the world and in the Arab world he is called as “sheikh Messi” after the bisht ceremony, so let us all be joyous in this great victory of Argentina against France. The Final was indeed one of the most nerve-wracking matches of world cup history if not the most.
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