DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar is a Muslim nation, with laws, customs and practices rooted in Islam. The country is neither as liberal as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates nor as conservative as parts of Saudi Arabia. Most of its citizens are Sunni Muslims.
Qatar’s most powerful clan hails from the landlocked interior of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Wahhabi ideology was born. Its national mosque is named after the 18th-century religious figure, Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, who spurred the ultraconservative interpretation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism.
Visitors to this mosque and others in Qatar are asked to dress conservatively, with men covering their knees and women preferably wearing loose robes called abayas and headscarves.
Unlike Saudi Arabia, where adherence to Wahhabism led to strict segregation of unmarried men and women, banned women from driving, and banned concerts, cinemas and even yoga for decades, the Qatar has long sponsored the arts, allowed women to participate in high levels of governance, and encouraged tourists to feel at home in the country. It also authorizes the sale of alcohol in hotels and licensed bars.
As fans head to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup this year, here’s a look at the practice of Islam in the country:
ISLAM IN QATAR
PHOTOS: EXPLANATION: Islam in Qatar explained ahead of FIFA World Cup
Mosques in Qatar amplify the Muslim call to prayer five times a day over loudspeakers, including at dawn and dusk.
It is common to hear Muslims use expressions such as “alhamdulillah”, which means “praise be to God” or “thank God”, and “Inshallah”, which means “God willing”. The traditional Arabic Muslim greeting “as-salamu alaikum” means “peace be upon you”. References to God, such as “ya Allah” and “Allahu akhbar”, can be heard in times of tribulation or celebration.
Muslims believe that God revealed the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad. He is not only considered part of a long line of great prophets, including Moses and Jesus, but is also considered the last prophet of Islam.
Islam is a monotheistic religion with belief in one God. Muslims believe that the Quran is a continuation of the core values of the Torah and the Bible.
Qatar’s laws are rooted in Islamic Sharia, but also include civil laws.
TABOOS IN QATAR
Most Qatari women wear the modest head covering or headscarf, known as the hijab, and the long black robes called abayas. Qatari men dress in traditional long loose white clothing known as “thoub” – pronounced “thuwb”.
In general, tourists are expected to dress in a manner that meets Qatari standards, including avoiding public displays of affection such as kissing, even between married couples. Transparent and stripped clothes are strictly reserved for swimming pools and beaches.
Some Muslim women also prefer not to shake hands with men they are not directly related to. In greetings, it is customary to allow women to initiate handshakes if they wish.
Although alcohol is permitted in hotel restaurants and bars, it is illegal to consume it in public areas. Although he may be somewhat tolerated during the World Cup, he is not allowed to be openly drunk in public. During the World Cup, alcohol will be available in certain public “designated areas”.
Drugs are also strictly prohibited in Qatar, as are homosexuality and cross-dressing. World Cup organizers have told The Associated Press that anyone, regardless of sexual orientation, can come “without fear of any kind of repercussions”.
TOLERANCE FOR OTHER RELIGIONS
Qatari laws punish “offending” Islam or any of its rites or beliefs, as well as blasphemy against Islam, Christianity or Judaism.
The dissemination of texts causing religious conflict or containing material defaming one of these three religions is a punishable offence. The government closely monitors and censors websites, newspapers, magazines and books if they post content deemed derogatory to Islamic values.
Authorities generally allow various faiths to practice in private, but proselytizing for any religion other than Islam can result in a prison sentence. However, hotels and shops display Christmas trees and decorations in December.
According to the US State Department, the only registered religions in Qatar that have their own places of worship are Islam and Christianity.
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