Manama: Qatar is set to take "fair and necessary" measures against a diplomat who sparked a security scare by smoking in the toilet of an American passenger jet and jokingly made a reference to igniting his shoes.
"He effectively made a mistake as a human being. There will be fair and necessary measures in accordance with the law and after his investigation at the foreign ministry and listening to what he has to say," Ahmad Abdullah Al Mahmood, Qatar's minister of state for foreign affairs, said. "I would like to stress though that the mistake by the diplomat is an individual misjudgment that should not be over-generalised. When a journalist makes a terrible mistake, we cannot say that all or the majority of journalists are not professional or do not assume their responsibilities or that their newspapers have failed to teach them, educate them or train them on the basics and ethics of journalism,” Al Mahmood said in a letter addressed to Ahmad Al Sulaiti, the editor-in-chief of Qatari daily Al Watan.
What can be said about journalists also applies to diplomats, doctors, architects, lawyers, teachers and all those holding skilled jobs, the minister said. "This does not mean that I am minimizing the mistake of the Qatari diplomat, and the ministry will not be lenient with anyone who makes mistakes or covers up for other people’s faults," he wrote.
Al Mahmood was responding to an opinion piece published by Al Sulaiti on Sunday and in which he harshly criticized the "embarrassing" behaviour of Mohammad Al Modadi, the third secretary and vice consul of Qatar's Washington embassy, who raised fears of a repeat of the "shoe bomber" incident in which British national Richard Reid tried to blow up an airliner using explosives hidden in his footwear. Al Modadi was wrestled to the floor by an air marshal, the pilot declared an emergency and two F-16 fighters intercepted the airliner.
"I totally blame the diplomat for what had happened. He is a mature and sensible man with a PhD from Georgetown University and therefore is fully aware of what he is doing," Al Sulaiti wrote. "While I do not intend to give lessons to the foreign ministry, I wish Al Mahmood would tell me if our diplomats are properly groomed before they are sent to our embassies abroad and whether they acquire skills from our veteran ambassadors."
The editor in his piece wanted to know how diplomats are selected to be posted abroad and whether the ministry has special programmes to hone their skills and enhance their aptitudes.
"It is really sad to hear news that a Qatari diplomat was declared persona non grata and asked to leave his host country within 24 hours," he wrote.
According to Al Sulaiti, the foreign ministry should step in more vigorously to help young diplomats adapt to the culture of their host countries.
"We need to make sure that they can move from a small neighbourhood to Washington, from wearing casual clothes to putting on formal dresses, from eating with their hands to artfully using cutlery, from joking with friends while smoking shisha to formal business over lunch ... The diplomatic big jump should be made smoothly,” he wrote.
However, the foreign affairs state minister refuted the big jump claim in the case of the diplomat.
"He was appointed to the ministry in 2001 and was sent to the United States for further studies. He graduated in 2005 and was employed at the ministry for three years before he was transferred to Washington,” Al Mahmood said.
"When the story about the incident broke, there was another Qatari diplomat in the US, our consul in Houston, who was being honoured for his diplomatic achievements and rewarded for consolidating relations between Qatar and Texas," he said.