Islam in Qatar explained ahead of FIFA World Cup 2022
A major focus in Qatar’s bid to host the 2022 World Cup has been how to include and include the Muslim majority – as shown by the slogan chosen as the official anthem.
If successful, Qatar will be the first Middle Eastern country to host the tournament. “I’ll bring the Muslims to watch the game and the non-Muslims to watch it,” said Shaikh Hamad bin Khalifa al Khalifa, the crown prince of the Emirati state of Qatar, who is bidding to host the World Cup. “I don’t want one group,” he said.
He spoke at a conference in Qatar on a high-powered international panel of experts. “We want to give footballers the chance to see their religion, because they all represent that country,” he added.
For example, his first-choice option for the opening game is to be played at the Muslim holy city of Mecca. Yet, according to the World Cup organisers, the country has a substantial Muslim population – at 10 per cent of the total population. In Doha, Sheikh Hamad confirmed the figure is close to 20,000. This was his answer to a question: “It’s very difficult to bring everyone to one place [as] it requires a lot of things,” he said.
He added that he would “bring Muslims, Christians and Jews”. His vision for the opening game is to “give non-Muslims the chance to have a go and see the city properly – to see everything and breathe the place, and not just see a video of a building, but visit it in proper time – a proper period of time where it is full of life, and it has a festival”.
“I thought, this is the best country in the world,” said Sheikh Hamad, after noting his personal relationship with the Prince of Wales, Meghan Markle, to whom he had earlier offered hospitality. “So, we thought, we can choose it well.”
Qatar’s bid will be the subject of an intense media and campaign battle. The World Cup organising committee will need to prove the country can host such a massive event, as well as being a safe destination for the 1.6 million people involved as spectators and participants.