Churches in Qatar under construction!

This is good news, here is an actual instance of benevolence and respect from a ruler in the Arab Gulf! No crosses? I can deal with that, though it reminds me of how insecure Muslims are about buildings and things like that. And finally, no missionary activity? If Muslims understand by that, no offering money or gifts to entice people to leave Islam, then I can get behind that too.

The building of the church has shocked conservative Muslims of Qatar and has led to heated debates in the local media. Most Qatari Muslims belong to the Wahhabi sect, one of the most conservative currents in Islam and the state-doctrine in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Opponents of the church quote a Tradition attributed to the prophet Mohammed which reads: "There shall be no two religions in the Arabian peninsula." Alluding to this Tradition, articles have appeared in the local press bearing titles such as "No cross shall be raised under the sky of Qatar and no church-bell shall ring!"

Basic right
But advocates of the church, too, support their views with religious arguments. One of them is Dr Abdelhamid al-Ansari, former dean of the Qatari shari'a college. "Establishing places of worship for different religions", he writes in one of his articles in favour of the building of churches in his country, "is a basic right guaranteed to all human beings by the Koran and the Tradition of the prophet." Dr Ansari also recognizes the prophetic Tradition quoted by his opponents, but says it only applies to the Hijaz, the province of the two holy cities of Islam Macca and Medina.

Another Qatari shaykh, Ali al-Qardaghi, went even further by assuring a French reporter that Islam does not prohibit the building of churches "nor any other places of worship." His statement is significant because traditional Islam indeed explicitly grants all kinds of rights to Christians and Jews - the so-called 'people of the Book' - but has great difficulty in recognizing the beliefs of Hindus and Buddhists as 'religious.' And after all a large section of the guest workers in Qatar are not Christians but Hindus from India.

No cross
The church, which costs 18 million dollars, will contain a conference hall, a library, accommodation for clerics and a café. But it will have no cross on the outside and the catholic cardinal heading it had to promise the authorities that he will not engage in missionary activities.


Farah said…
this is wonderful news, but sadly, i think a threat or a violation against it is inevitable. The 'no crosses shall rise in Qatar' really infuriated me, especially that Qatar has quite a percentage of Christians. but definitely good news.

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