DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Qatar is a Muslim nation with laws, customs and practices rooted in Islam. It is not as progressive as Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, nor as conservative as parts of Saudi Arabia. Most of its citizens are Sunni Muslims.
The most powerful clan in the country originates from the interior of the Arabian Peninsula, where the Wahhabi ideology was born. Its national mosque is named after an 18th-century religious figure, Mohammed Ibn Abdul-Wahhab, who championed the ultra-conservative interpretation of Sunni Islam known as Wahhabism.
Visitors to that mosque and others in the country are asked to dress conservatively: men with knees covered and women preferably in flowing robes called abayas and a headscarf.
QATAR IS A MUSLIM NATION
Unlike Saudi Arabia, where adherence to Wahhabism led to strict segregation of single men and women, banned women from driving and barred them from attending concerts, cinemas and even yoga classes for decades, Qatar has long sponsored the arts, has women in high levels of government and encourages tourists to feel comfortable in the country.
In addition, it allows the sale of alcohol in hotels and licensed bars.
Before fans arrive in Qatar for the FIFA World Cup, a look at how Islam is practiced in the country.
ISLAM IN QATAR
Qatari mosques amplify the call to prayer five times a day through their loudspeakers, including at dawn and dusk.
It is common for Muslims to use phrases such as “alhamdulillah”, which means “praise be to God” or “thank God”, and “Inshallah” or “God willing”.
The traditional Arabic Muslim greeting, “as-salamu alaikum”, could be translated as “peace be upon you”. References to God, such as “ya Allah” and “Allahu akhbar”, may be heard in times of grief or celebration.
Muslims believe that God revealed the Koran to Muhammad, who is considered one of a long line of important prophets, including Moses and Jesus, as well as the last prophet of Islam.
Islam is a monotheistic religion. Muslims believe that the Koran is the continuation of the fundamental values of the Torah and the Bible.
Qatari laws are based on Islamic religious law or Sharia law, but also include civil law.
Most Qatari women cover their heads with a scarf or hijab and wear long black robes called abayas. The men dress in a traditional white, long and loose garment, known as a “thoub”.
In general, tourists are expected to dress in a way that respects the country’s norms and to avoid public displays of affection such as kissing, even between married couples. Sheer or skin-exposing garments are strictly reserved for pools and beaches.
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Some Muslim women prefer not to shake hands with men with whom they have no direct relationship. When greeting, it is customary to allow women to initiate the handshake if they wish.
Although alcohol is allowed in hotel restaurants and bars, it is illegal to consume it in public spaces in general. Although during the World Cup it could be tolerated, it is advisable not to take it in public. During the tournament, there will be alcohol in certain “designated areas”.
Drugs are strictly prohibited in Qatar, as are homosexuality and cross-dressing. World Cup organizers told The Associated Press that anyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, can travel “without fear of any repercussions.”
TOLERANCE TOWARDS OTHER RELIGIONS
Qatari law punishes “offense” against Islam or any of its rites and beliefs, as well as blasphemies against Islam, Christianity and Judaism.
The circulation of texts that provoke religious conflicts or contain material that defames one of the three nuns is a punishable offence. The government monitors and censors websites, newspapers, magazines and books if they display content considered derogatory to Islamic values.
Authorities often allow the practice of various religions in private, but proselytizing anything other than Islam could carry a prison sentence. Hotels and stores, however, put up Christmas trees and decorations in December.
The only registered religions in Qatar that have their own places of worship are Islam and Christianity, according to the US State Department.