December 14, 2022 Special Dispatch No. 10377

Journalists In Arab World Criticize Promotion Of Islam To World Cup Visitors: Islam Is Not Cheap Goods To Be Hawked To The Masses; It Deserves More Respect Than That

December 14, 2022
Qatar | Special Dispatch No. 10377

In recent weeks there have been reports, mainly on social media, that tourists visiting Qatar for the FIFA World Cup have converted to Islam.[1] It seems that Qatar indeed regards the World Cup as an opportunity for promoting Islam to non-Muslims. On November 20, the tournament's opening day, there were reports that Dr. Zakir Naik, an extremist Islamic preacher who is wanted in India,[2] and Egyptian preacher 'Omar 'Abdelkafy had arrived in the capital Doha at the invitation of the Qatari regime, to engage in da'wa (propagation of Islam) among World Cup attendees. In addition, Qatar has established a comprehensive array of activities and content aimed at promoting Islam to foreign visitors. This includes an interactive exhibition on Islam, materials about Islam in multiple languages distributed at various locations, visitor centers at which thousands of volunteers engage in promoting Islam to World Cup attendees, and billboards on the streets, at shopping centers and in tourist attractions with quotations from the Prophet Muhammad and information on Islam.[3]  

Graphic posted on Twitter boasts 3,125 new converts as of December 3, 2022.[4]

Against this backdrop, several Arab journalists condemned the efforts to promote Islam to World Cup visitors. They wrote that the eagerness to use the World Cup in this manner reflects a sense of inferiority that prompts Muslims to try and hawk their religion to the masses like cheap goods at the market, and that is shallow thinking and an insult to Islam itself.  The World Cup, they added, is not intended for da'wa, and the way strengthen the Islamic nation is not by recruiting masses of new Muslims but rather by joining the arena of culture, science, industry and technology. One of the authors wrote that Islam "deserves much more appreciation and respect" than that, and another asked how Muslims would respond if, at a World Cup in a non-Muslim country, there were efforts to convert Muslims to Christianity.

A video circulated on Twitter shows activists approaching women on a Doha street and inviting them to wear a hijab  (source:, November 23, 2022)

The following are translated excerpts from these articles.

Egyptian Journalist: The Eagerness To Covert World Cup Visitors Reflects A Muslim Inferiority Complex

In a November 25, 2022 article headed "Does Islam Need to Be Bought and Sold?", Liberal Egyptian journalist Khaled Montasser wrote: "The hysterical headlines, posts and tweets ahead of and during the World Cup exposed a severe flaw in our collective consciousness that requires a quick and effective treatment. [According to these headlines and posts, the Ivorian retired] footballer [Drogba] Didier announced that he had converted to Islam; Sheikh Mahmoud Al-Masri reported the good news that Messi had proclaimed the two testimonies,[5] [American actor] Morgan Freeman had converted to Islam; a famous Indian Islamic preacher [Zakir Naik] converted 558 people to Islam in three days; a young Egyptian preacher [Hatem Al-Huwaini], the son of a renowned [Salafi] preacher [Abu Ishaq Al-Huwaini], got ten passersby to embrace Islam in half an hour, and a Brazilian family heard the call to prayer in Doha and decided to convert. There was a torrent of reports celebrating the number of people who had joined Islam, as if [the World Cup] is a tournament of religion, rather than of football. If this indicates anything, it indicates that we suffer from a severe sense of inferiority and from feeblemindedness, [as though] Islam needs buyers. This cultural flaw makes us like vendors… standing [in the market] and shouting, 'come, come, only two and a half [liras], just take a look,' and so on, to attract more buyers.

"Gentlemen, neither our religion nor any other religion needs new customers or needs to be mass-marketed. In fact, it should not be marketed at all, because a large number [of believers] does not secure [our] future or present or [encourage] innovation. On the contrary, it sometimes leads to pressure, paralysis and economic weakness… which become a paralyzing burden. We must strengthen ourselves by partaking of culture, science, industry and technology, not by recruiting millions of followers [for Islam] and taking pride in recruiting them in half an hour. This is shorter than the time it takes a person to choose a shirt and pants he likes, yet we claim that someone replaced and abandoned all the beliefs he was raised on, out of complete conviction [in a new faith].        

"Let me ask: Did Israel attain its power by getting more people [to embrace Judaism]?" Was the Jewish control over economic resources and over a vast media apparatus achieved through millions of people breeding like rabbits and joining [Judaism] in droves? On the contrary, the source of their strength was transforming their minority [status] into an advantage. Let's not become the world's laughingstock as we huff and puff in this imagined marathon of hearty hospitality and all-night celebrations [and boast about] players joining our faith and our religious team.

"Friends, let's be a bit more confident and flexible by changing our thinking and matching it to the present and the future and to the march of history. Otherwise we will suffer from a mental fixation and our clock will be stuck, and, [despite being] a nation that wants to extract itself from the cocoon of backwardness, we will slide back even further… We must understand the thrust of history, so that we do not remain on its sidelines."[6]     

Jordanian Journalist: How Would We React If Non-Muslims Used The World Cup To Convert Muslim Football Fans To Christianity?

'Oraib Al-Rantawi, a Jordanian journalist and political commentator, wrote on November 26: "…I can't accept the idea that they called up a battalion of 'preachers' and 'propagators' to come to the World Cup [football] pitches, so as to use this mass event to engage in da'wa and swell the ranks of the Muslims. The Muslims do not suffer from insufficient numbers…  [Moreover], as far as I know, the World Cup is not a da'wa event and we must not be so overjoyed to see on social media videos and pictures of individuals and groups of fans proclaiming the two testimonies, when we do not [even] know whether they really embraced Islam so quickly…

"Imagine the opposite scenario of the one that is being circulated today. How would we have reacted if, in the previous World Cup in Moscow [in 2018], they had tried to attract Muslims to Orthodox Christianity, or if, in the next World Cup in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. [in 2026] they try to turn Arab fans into Catholic and Protestant Christians? How would we react to this 'global conspiracy' against the identity and faith of the [Muslim] nation in successive World Cup tournaments?"[7]   

Kuwaiti Journalist: "Ugly Scenes" Of Converting World Cup Fans Reflect "Shallow Thinking" And Are "An Insult To Islam"

Kuwaiti journalist Muhammad Al-Rumaihi wrote in a similar vein in his column on the Al-Nahar Al-Arabi website: "People confuse the notion of da'wa and the [notion of] the World Cup. We have been hearing about the number of 'World Cup attendees who have been successfully converted to Islam.' This is shallow thinking and an insult to the cultured [religion of] Islam. One scene showed a teenage girl surrounded by several [people] who coached her in proclaiming the two testimonies and then declared: 'We have converted her to Islam!', while she was probably completely oblivious [to what was happening]. 

"This is an erroneous understanding of Islam, which is supposed to be surrounded with honor and respect, not with these ugly scenes, which are a flagrant insult to the supreme values of Islamic da'wa. These masses did not come [to Qatar] to be picked out for conversion. This is a cheap achievement, because, for most or all of these [people] who were 'successfully' [converted], the whole thing was just a joke, part of the [World Cup] experience, as we saw in the case of that teenaged girl."[8] 


[1] See e.g.,, November 22, 2022.

[2] 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.  On his arrival in Qatar see MEMRI Specuial Dispatch No. 10331, Qatar Welcomes India's Wanted Radical Islamist Preacher Dr. Zakir Naik At FIFA World Cup, Taking Advantage Of Tournament To Proselytize For Islam , November 21,. 2022.

[4], December 6, 2022.

[5] The Shahada (Islamic proclamation of faith) includes two testimonies: that there is only one god and that Muhammad is His messenger.

[6] Al-Watan (Egypt), November 25, 2022.

[7], November 26, 2022.

[8], November 29, 2022.

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