Qatari officials say their goal is to educate non-Muslim fans about the true teachings of Islam and dispel misconceptions. Qatar is the first Islamic country to host the FIFA World Cup.
Qatar, the first Islamic host of the FIFA World Cup, is taking advantage of this opportunity to change the minds of millions of fans from around the world about Islam. Meanwhile, many fans are also being invited to accept Islam.
‘A First Look at Islam’
A Canadian couple Dorinal and Clara Popa listen to the call to prayer from an Ottoman-style mosque in Doha’s Katara cultural district. The mosque is also known as the “Blue Mask” of Doha because of the magnificent blue and purple tiles on its walls. A guide took the couple to show the interior of the mosque, where a large chandelier dominates.
Dorian Popa, 54, says this is the couple’s first look at Islam. “We have prejudices about people and their culture because of our lack of knowledge about others,” says his 52-year-old wife, Clara Poppa. There were thoughts, some of which may now change.”
The Qatar Guest Center, the supervisory body of Blue Mask, has invited dozens of Islamic preachers from around the world during the Tourna Minute. Along with Arabic coffee and dates, leaflets in different languages about Islam and the Prophet are kept outside the mosque.
Ziad Fatah, a Syrian volunteer, says, “The World Cup is an opportunity to introduce millions of people to Islam and to remove the misconceptions about this religion, under which Westerners associate it with extremism.” “We talk to people about morality, family ties, the importance of treating neighbors and non-Muslims with respect,” he added.
‘Ask me about Qatar’
Near the mosque, a volunteer has also set up a table for female guests, on which “Ask me about Qatar” is written. Guests who stay here are also served Arabic coffee. According to Samia, a female Palestinian volunteer here, most of the questions are related to topics such as “the hijab, polygamy and whether women are oppressed in Islam.” Around this place, visitors can watch a five-minute virtual reality tour about Islam. This campaign is ongoing across Qatar.
Doha’s Pearl District is home to many expats and many of them frequent the expensive cafes and restaurants here. The walls here are painted with quotes from the Prophet of Islam emphasizing good morals. Along with this, advertisements promoting Islam have been placed in high-end shopping malls.
There is a similar shopping mall in Souq Waqf Market, where thousands of devotees gather every day. For them, free books and pamphlets are kept in a corridor. Inscribed in them is a message, “If you are looking for happiness, you will find (it) in Islam.”
The Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Islamic Cultural Center, near the mall, is open 12 hours a day for tourism. Some Muslim leaders in Qatar have emphasized efforts to convert non-Muslim football fans to Islam.
Sultan bin Ibrahim Al-Hashemi, professor of Sharia law at Qatar University and head of the Voice of Islam radio station, said the World Cup should be used to seek new converts as well as combat Islamophobia.
“In my meetings with foreign fans, I would offer them to convert to Islam,” Hashmi told AFP. If I get a chance, I will present Islam to them with ease and grace, and if I don’t get a chance, I will tell them that you are our guests and brothers as humanity. Does not accept change.
Conversion of religion fact or exaggeration
Social media posts claim that hundreds of fans have converted to Islam. However, AFP’s fact-checking service found these claims to be false. An official from Qatar’s Ministry of Religious Endowments told AFP that the state’s objective was “not the number of converts to Islam, but the number of people who convert to Islam.” “There are a number of people who change their minds about it.”
Fans say they find the idea of religious conversions at the World Cup ridiculous. “It’s a good opportunity to learn more about Islam, but no one converts during a football tournament,” said 21-year-old Peter Lulik from Croatia, who is in Qatar with his family.