Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani (b. 1952) reigned as Emir of Qatar from 1995 to 2013, when he stepped down in favor of Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, a son by his second wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Misnad. Frustrated with the innate conservatism of his own father’s government, especially the slow speed of economic growth and development, Sheikh Hamad took power in a successful coup. Upon assuming power, Sheikh Hamad promised extensive economic and political reform. While some of the promised political liberalization occurred, including the enfranchisement of women and the periodic holding of elections for various entities, change slowed as the sheikh consolidated his power with respect to other members of his family.
Economic and social changes are far more significant. Unlike his father, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad, who retained tight control over state oil revenues, Sheikh Hamad expanded the base of recipients, ensuring that all native Qataris, especially his extended family, shared in the material benefits derived from exploitation of the country’s resources. The visibility Sheikh Hamad granted to his second wife, Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Misnad, and daughters as officials in various high-profile Qatari institutions affirms the possibility of greater opportunities for women than found in some other Arab states. Similarly, the invitation to Western, mostly American, universities to set up satellite campuses suggests a certain openness to scholarly debate. The decision to include a Jesuit school, Washington, DC’s Georgetown University, amongst those institutions provides a symbol of increased religious freedom. Similarly, the emir has allowed the construction of churches for Christian expatriates and the existence of a parallel family law legal system for Shi’a Muslims.
James M. Dorsey. “Wahhabism v. Wahhabism: Qatar Challenges Saudi Arabia.” RSIS Working Paper Series No. 262, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Singapore, 2013. Accessed June 24, 2014.
Allen Fromherz. Qatar: A Modern History (Washington D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2012).
Mehran Kamrava. "Royal Factionalism and Political Liberalization in Qatar." The Middle East Journal 63 (2009): 401-420.