MESOP MIDEAST WATCH : FIFA WORLD CUP AS AN ISLAM FESTIVAL – Qatar Promotes Islam To FIFA World Cup Attendees In Comprehensive Da’wa Campaign Entailing Interactive Islamic Exhibition, Guest Centers, Information Booklet In Multiple Languages
MEMRI REPORT 24-11-22 In preparing for the influx of tourism during the 2022 FIFA World Cup, Qatar has worked to establish a comprehensive set of activities and content aimed at promoting Islam to foreign visitors. The wealthy nation’s Da’wa, or Islamic outreach, campaign includes activities for visitors, such as the Interactive Islamic Exhibition, guest centers, and the distribution of a booklet about Islam in multiple languages. Qatar has also welcomed a group of prominent preachers to take part in its Da’wa campaign, including extremist Islamist preacher Zakir Naik. This report will highlight Qatar’s promotion of Islam to attendees of the football World Cup, and some social media reactions to those efforts.
One of the leading organizations in the effort to promote Islam to football fans is the Qatar Guest Center, which was established in 1998 by the Sheikh Eid bin Mohammad Al Thani Charitable Association. According to Elbalad News, 2,000 people have volunteered to participate in the Guest Center’s efforts to invite non-Muslims to convert to Islam during the World Cup. In addition, the Guest Center has dedicated 10 vehicles to Da’wa activities, and ten tents which present short videos about Islam in different languages.
Another Qatari organization promoting Islam to visitors is the Abdullah Bin Zaid Al Mahmoud Islamic Cultural Center, which is part of Qatar’s Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs. On November 13, 2022, the center unveiled the Interactive Islamic Exhibition at the Imam Muhammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab Mosque, open to male and female visitors. According to Dr. Saleh Al-Akhan, the center’s Director and Head of the Ministry’s Activities Team during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the Interactive Islamic Exhibition entails an introductory tour of the Imam Muhammad ibn Abd Al Wahhab Mosque, through which visitors learn about the mosque, its Islamic architecture, as well as about aspects of the Islamic faith, and about other historic mosques in the State of Qatar. In addition to the exhibition, the center launched an electronic booklet titled “Understanding Islam” in several languages including English, French, Spanish, German, Russian and Portuguese.
To facilitate easy access to its materials, the center placed QR codes inside hotel rooms, which allow guests to easily access its materials about Islam.
In addition, Qatar has installed billboards with English quotes from hadith — sayings attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. For example, on October 28, 2022, the “WC_Qatar22” Twitter account posted images of four billboards with different hadith in English.
Similarly, electronic billboards in local shopping malls featured English-language ads for the site Exploringislam.com, depicting Muslims expressing the importance of Islam in their lives.
Along with these efforts, Qatar invited prominent Muslim preachers from different countries to take part in Da’wa activities, including Indian Islamist preacher Dr. Zakir Naik, Egyptian Islamist Dr. Omar Abdelkafy, and others. Naik, who is based in Malaysia, is wanted by the Indian government on charges of money laundering and hate speech against non-Muslims, and is barred from entering Canada and the UK. His television channel “Peace TV” is banned in India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Canada, and the UK.
So far, Qatar’s promotion of Islam has prompted some visitors to take part in Islamic practices or to fully convert to Islam. While there are several unverified reports claiming that dozens of people have embraced Islam thanks to the Da’wa efforts, some credible sources have confirmed a number of cases. For example, the Twitter account of the Arabic Post, a news website, tweeted a video showing a Mexican man being led by a preacher in making the Islamic declaration of monotheism in English and Arabic.