DUBAI (Reuters) - The world’s largest Muslim organization has thrown its weight behind Qatar’s hosting of the 2022 World Cup, hitting back at Western criticism of the Gulf Arab state’s dealings with FIFA amid a corruption probe into world soccer’s governing body.
Swiss and U.S. authorities are investigating both Russia and Qatar’s successful campaigns to stage the 2018 and 2022 tournaments.
In a statement posted on its website, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) criticized what it said was “Western media tendentious campaigns” targeting OIC member, casting doubt on its right to host the event.
“The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) stresses its support to the State of Qatar and to all that would ensure its success in hosting the World Cup, as well as to its efforts towards optimal preparations for the event,” OIC, which groups 57 countries with a combined population of some 1.5 billion people said in the statement on Wednesday.
“It applauds the level of progress reached in the preparations and welcomes Qatar’s continued preparations to host the 2022 World Cup,” it added.
U.S. prosecutors stunned international soccer last month by indicting 14 senior administrators and business figures, including FIFA officials, over alleged bribery and corruption in the sport. The scandal turned the spotlight again on the Qatar bid.
FIFA, world soccer’s governing body, has said the countries may be stripped of the cup if evidence emerges of bribery in the bidding. Qatar denies any corruption was involved.
Qatari Foreign Minister Khaled al-Attiyah told Reuters earlier this month that criticism of his country was due to prejudice and racism.
The decision to hold the tournament in Qatar was already controversial because of its extreme summer heat, which caused FIFA to move it to winter, forcing domestic leagues to change their schedules.
The country also continues to be criticized by international human rights and labor organizations for its treatment of its 1.5 million migrant workers, many of whom are building infrastructure related to the World Cup.
Writing by Sami Aboudi; Editing by Hugh Lawson