Qatari youth need to make use of the tremendous opportunities coming their way. Khalifa Saleh Haroon, 25, said Qatari society is experiencing the ‘Tradition versus modernity’ conflict in the face of rapid globalisation – especially of the peninsula.
“Yes. Many people my age are simply wasting their lives. The new generation needs to believe in creating a future for Qatar that the world can be proud of,” the youth, with an honours degree in Law from the UK, told Gulf Times.
The human face behind the virtual façade of Qatar’s presence on the internet, Haroon founded iloveqatar.net (ILQ) late in 2007 with the aim of putting Qatar on the digital map, out of sheer love for the country and also because there was very little accurate information on Qatar on the web, according to him.
“Wherever I went as a university student, I was asked two things: where I am from followed by where it was,” he said.
Haroon who is a financial analyst during the day and a computer enthusiast at night was ticked off because Lonely Planet’s description of Qatar was “20 years old”.
Haroon envisaged a platform - a website that was to provide a lot of information and a current resource for foreigners wanting to move to Qatar as well as for expatriates who are already here.
ILQ now serves as a web encyclopaedia on Qatar. There is a dining guide, public forums, blogs, activities list, events, and a general guide.
“I had to do it myself. While studying in the UK, I founded a website called “fluid mobile” which was targeted at providing university students bargains. I loved creating practical theories. One idea was called a ‘white virus’; it would infect your PC like a virus but was in fact an anti-virus,” Haroon said.
“On ILQ, what I wanted to do was to inspire others. It has the distinction of including one of the first Qatari blogs where I write about real issues.”
The blog is called “Mr. Q” - a Qatari’s view. “I want to tell others that there is freedom of expression in the country,” Haroon said.
Despite the name of the site there is even a section called ‘I don’t love Qatar’ where users share their thoughts on things they’re not happy with.
According to the optimistic individual, as much as people complain – and they do from Doha’s traffic jams, road rage, public conduct, to smoking in malls – people should come up with solutions.
“The government can’t do everything on its own. It needs the help of the people. We were the first ones to suggest how labour camps in the Industrial Area can be turned into green residences – with virtually no extra money,” Haroon noted.
This emphasis on being socially-positive has resulted in ILQ becoming – again one of the first GCC social and informative portals – to advocate environment sustainability.
“It’s a subject that is close to me. So much so that I wrote a dissertation on environment comparing the laws of the UK and Qatar,” he said.
Then, there are campaigns that ILQ started organising or supported; a monthly ‘ILQ Labour Day’, ‘Wear your Seatbelt’, ‘Wear Something Yellow’, ‘QAWS’ and ‘Think Pink’.
“To be honest, I feel both honoured that there’s a fantastic expatriate community that are contributing to causes to help Qatar. This is something that more Qataris should be doing too,” he said.
“For just over a year now, we take 25% of the profit that ILQ generates, as well as donations, we pick a random worksite where we drop off some cold drinks, wet towels, shirts, and best of all, calling cards so that labourers can phone home to hear their families voices, every month,” Haroon pointed out.
“These guys are working hard to build my country, I’m so proud, so this is my way of saying thank you. With the low salary they make, giving them a phone with a bit of credit in it to pass around and phone home makes a big difference. It’s all so that they can call their family back home and say “I’m safe”,” he added.
“I want to show everyone that there are Qataris who care and hopefully influence others to do the same as well. I also want to break stereotypes that Qataris don’t have the same problems as others do,” Haroon said.
When started, ILQ, as a website was globally ranked at 2.5mn, today its ranked 300,000.
“Everyday myself or other ILQ administrators get 20-30 emails from prospective residents asking me questions as simple as how to get a visa. Do I tell them go to the government. No. I help them as much as I can. The website helps serve that original idea of telling the world what Qatar really is – and is becoming,” Haroon added.
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