FIFA World Cup 2022: Along with the frenzy over FIFA World Cup 2022 swelling with every match, interest of football fans about Islam and Muslim culture is also witnessing a remarkable surge, making Qatar a role model and an exemplary learning platform of religious harmony and diversity.
FIFA World Cup and other sporting events in the past have been in news for vulgar display of pop culture and widespread alcohol and drugs consumption. However, to respect Islamic values and local culture, organisers banned open sale of beer and alcohol in Qatar during the FIFA World Cup 2022. The move was welcomed by fans across the board – local as well as those coming from outside.
Alongside this, the Qatari officials also requested women fans coming from different parts of the world to avoid “revealing” dresses, making it comfortable for families and kids to enjoy the Football World Cup 2022 matches without any reservation.
Simultaneously, local officials decided to use the occasion as an opportunity to portray the real picture of Islam and Muslim culture. Among many other steps taken to achieve this goal, Qatar installed large and colourful hoardings and electronic boards having Hadiths, noble sayings, of Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him) that talk about peace, charity, brotherhood, diversity and co-existence – in Arabic and their translation in English and 29 other languages, at prominent locations and entrances of the eight stadiums built for the tournament.
[Screen grab of video shared by Middle East Monitor.]
The mood set by these measures changed further when the World Cup was inaugurated on November 20, 2022. The glittering ceremony, meticulously prepared to suit the mega event, started with a convincing conversation between Qatari YouTube sensation Ghanim Al MIftah and senior Hollywood Actor Morgan Freeman – the former reciting in his beautiful voice the verses from the Holy Quran that explains the concept of diversity and unity in Islam as the latter sat close to him and listened with apt sincerity.
Combined with all these is Adhaan, call to prayers, coming from the minarets of the mosques and mesmerising the football fans five times in a day. Then came Friday on November 25th and again on December 02. The football world cup matches being suspended and Muslim fans rushing outside the stadium to listen to Friday sermon and offer the special weekly prayers – men, women and children, all in unison. And, then prayer mats stretched over the ground, and prayer rooms having glass walls so that non-Muslims can observe the prayers and learn about Islam.
To give football fans an idea of Muslim worship places, employees and preachers from the Qatar Guest Centre are stationed at the mosque's entrance to welcome the non-Muslims and respond to their queries about the mosque.
Booklets about Islam are also being distributed to those who want them while multilingual male and female volunteers explain Islamic religion and 'tolerance' to tourists at various places in Doha. Some volunteers are also helping visitors to don and try Hijab if they wish.
These all are simply fascinating for the football fans – many among them who were “fed” by a section of media a “peculiar”, “strange”, “weird”, and most of the time “hateful” image of Islam and Muslims.
Noticing that their malafide campaign against Islam and Muslims is at the risk of being exposed, the same people are now accusing Qatar of using the event to push what they term its “Islamist agenda”.
Reports of some football fans converting to Islam has also not gone down well with those having enmity with Islam and Muslims, though the measures taken by the oil rich state fitted the present situation in the world where not a day is passed without a negative portrayal of Islam and Muslims.
Qatar meanwhile rejected all these accusations, saying what it did is just a simple attempt to make people gain knowledge about Islam and clear their misconception about the religion. And, there are football fans who confirm this.
“The US media’s portrayal of the Middle East has been very different from what I have experienced here,” Andrea, a football fan, said while talking to media, adding that her friends decided against travelling to Qatar.
Andrea further said she is glad she came. “Simple things like taking a walk around the city late at night, that’s something I can’t do back home.”
[The writer Zohair M Safwan is Associate Editor at ummid.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
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