Browsing 'islam' News

Satheesh/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Non-Muslims should be afforded the same rights as Muslims when living in a Muslim country, the majority (89 percent) of recently polled Qatari youth have said.

They were the most likely in 10 Arab countries to believe this to be true.

That’s according to the second annual Muslim Millennial Attitudes on Religion and Religious Leadership report.

Al Tabah Foundation

Survey results

The findings concern the report’s authors, who said there is a “dire lack of understanding among young Arabs” about how citizenship and rights work under Islam.

“The view that citizenship is subject to a hierarchy of prominence determined primarily by one’s faith is precisely the frame that extremist groups want normalized,” the report said.

The survey was conducted by the Abu Dhabi-based Tabah Foundation along with Zogby Research, which released the results this week.

The report gauges religious sentiment among youth in Qatar, Algeria, Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Sudan, Tunisia and Yemen.

To arrive at their conclusions, the authors interviewed more than 7,000 young Arabs in these countries earlier this year.

Identity questions

One reason Qataris might believe in equal treatment is because they were among the most likely to say they have friends or acquaintances who are not Muslim (84 percent).

In Lebanon, 95 percent of young Arabs answered affirmatively to that question.

Embrace Doha

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

But elsewhere, most people in Sudan, Mauritania, Yemen and Tunisia, among others, said they do not have non-Muslim associates.

When it came to their identity, most Qatari youth (59 percent) surveyed listed their country as the first thing that defined them.

Far fewer cited being Arab (18 percent) or Muslim (19 percent) first, and only 4 percent listed their family or tribe first.

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

However, nine out of 10 Qataris polled said it is still important for people they meet to know they are Muslim.

And 71 percent said religion has an important role to play in their country’s future.

Banning content

Perhaps due to their strong religious convictions, the majority of youth in all countries surveyed said they believe cultural content that breaches society’s morals and ethics should be banned.

In Qatar, 67 percent supported that notion, while 33 percent agreed with the idea that if they don’t like it, they don’t have to watch it.

Vox Cinema/Facebook

Photo for illustrative purposes only

Interestingly, Qatar was on the less conservative side when it came to censorship, compared to other countries surveyed (except for Lebanon).

The findings could indicate dropping support for banning content.

Just three years ago, for example, a media study found that 80 percent of Qatar residents approved the deletion of offensive scenes in movies.

“This support for censorship and government monitoring of entertainment content is observed across all facets of the population, except, perhaps, among Western expatriates in Qatar,” Northwestern University in Qatar said at the time.

Islamic reforms needed

When it comes to Islam, many Qataris (25 percent) said they found Friday sermons to be “bland and boring.” And only a third said they were inspirational.

The numbers may explain why Qataris overwhelmingly (70 percent) supported the idea of reforming religious discourse to make it more relevant to their lives.

Arshad Inamdar/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Local youth also believe more can be done for women in society.

Some 79 percent of Qataris said their society respects and empowers women – the most out of every country except Yemen.

But Qataris were also the most likely to support the idea that female religious scholars should be able to preach more widely in society.

Finally, a majority of youth polled in all countries said groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda “are misguided and tarnish the image of Islam.”

Thoughts?

Bradley Weber/Flickr

The Manhattan skyline

A Qatari man hoping to promote cross-cultural understanding and debunk myths about Muslims is launching a new Islamic art museum in downtown New York next month.

Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al-Thani told Doha News that he hopes the Institute of Arab and Islamic Art (IAIA) will “challenge stereotypes and grant artist, curators and writers from the region an opportunity to engage with a broader audience.”

The institute will present three to four temporary exhibitions a year.

IAIA

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

They will feature artists from the Arab and Islamic world, with the aim of “enabling them to join a broader global conversation,” the IAIA’s website states.

Its first exhibition will go live on May 3 and involve Islamic architecture and geometry, Al Thani told Doha News.

“Though there are foundations in the US that engage in Arab and Islamic Art, the narratives presented and the exhibitions curated by these foundations are not quite reflective of our societies and cultures,” he added.

Background

A graduate of Georgetown University in Qatar’s School of Foreign Service, Al Thani has worked for the UN and Qatar Foundation.

He is currently writing a dissertation on Cezane and the advent of Fauvism and Cubism.

Cezane’s Card Players, reportedly bought by Qatar for record-breaking $250 million.

The IAIA is a non-profit organization funded by several donors from around the world, but does not have ties to governments, Al Thani said.

Qataris and Emiratis, including Mohammed Al Rabban, Sheikh Nasser Al-Thani, Sheikh Rashid Al-Thani, Safiya Al-Ghaith and Sheikha Sharifa Al-Qubaisi, are listed on the museum’s website as its founding benefactors.

Program

In addition to exhibitions, the institute also plans to launch a residency program. This will be for artists, critics and curators who are interested in engaging with a New York audience.

Residents will be provided housing and workspace, as well as learn about different artistic movements that originated in New York. They will also present work and projects at the IAIA.

Navin Sam / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Another goal of the institute is to increase knowledge of Islamic civilization and history.

It plans to do this by engaging writers and scholars in translations and publications, the museum’s website states.

Finally, the IAIA is planning to host an outreach program with schools and universities through collaborations with Arab cultural center across the US, Al Thani said.

Thoughts?

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Chantelle D'mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Asserting that migrant workers should not “lose their freedom for a piece of bread,” researchers and religious scholars have called on Qatar and other countries to improve foreigners’ treatment so that it is more in line with Islamic traditions and values.

In addition to overhauling its kafala sponsorship system, there needs to be a shift in attitudes so that foreigners are seen and treated as equals, panelists said last night during a discussion hosted by Qatar’s Research Center for Islamic Legislation and Ethics (CILE).

“We see (migrants) working for us … But there is no appreciation. There is no love dedicated to those people,” said Sheikh Ali Al Quradaghi, secretary general of the International Union of Muslim Scholars. “The earth was made for all creatures, all human beings, not one category of people,” he added.

Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies mosque

Chantelle D'mello

Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies mosque

The discussion at CILE, which is part of Hamad bin Khalifa University’s Qatar Faculty of Islamic Studies (QFIS), comes as Qatar prepares to amend legislation that governs the relationship between expats and their sponsors.

While the specific reforms contained in the new law are not yet known, the original proposals drafted by government officials aimed to make it easier for foreigners to leave the country and change jobs.

Last night, Al Quradaghi praised Qatar’s leaders for their willingness to address the issue and, like other panelists, directed his recommendations to countries across the region with large expat populations and not just Qatar.

But he and the other speakers called for changes – such as paying individuals equally for doing the same work regardless of their nationality, compensating employees fairly as well as giving domestic workers the same rights as other migrants by including them under the Labor Law – that Qatar has so far been reluctant to consider.

‘We need to take care of these people’

To illustrate his argument, Al Quradaghi highlighted the actions of Omar Ibn al-Khattab.

When the second caliph after the Prophet Muhammad came upon an elderly Jewish man begging and asked why, the man said he had worked for 50 years but still needed money to pay for his basic needs.

Al Quradaghi recounted that Omar was surprised and instructed that money be given to the man because he had been treated unfairly during his working career – a move, Al Quradaghi suggested, that governments and employers in the region should take inspiration from.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Richard Messenger/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

“Arab and Muslim countries ought to take care of those who provide long periods of service and participate in the building of these countries,” he said. “We need to take care of these people.”

Specifically, he said wage levels need to be examining in the context of the cost of living in nations such as Qatar.

“QR1,000 (a month), for example, in this country cannot be good enough,” he said.

There is no national minimum wage in Qatar. Instead, the government negotiates different salary levels with individual countries.

These bilateral agreements mean that workers are paid different amounts based on their nationality, said Latife Reda, a research consultant at the International Labor Organization in Lebanon.

Domestic workers

She told the audience last night that labor and workers’ rights are a “fundamental” part of Islamic traditions, including equal pay for equal work and the right to decent living and working conditions.

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Stephan Geyer/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Reda specifically highlighted how domestic workers across the GCC as well as in countries such as Lebanon are not covered under the labor law.

Human rights organizations including Amnesty International have said this exclusion leaves maids, nannies and other household workers particularly vulnerable to exploitation and other abuse from their sponsors, as there are few checks against the power of the employer beyond the criminal justice system.

Reda recommended that domestic employees be covered by the labor law, which she argued would lead to these workers being included in other measures, such as social security reforms.

This was also one of the recommendations of Jabir Al Howaiel, director of legal affairs at Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee.

While also calling on the government to sign on to multiple international treaties and conventions dealing with migrant rights, Al Howaiel added that current challenges could not be solved through mandatory standards alone:

“Respect and dignity of humans should be part of our culture so every human can live with dignity and liberate himself from fear in an environment that is conducive to security and development,” he said. “Workers ought not to lose their freedom for a piece of bread. They need to live with dignity.”

For illustrative purposes only

Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy

For illustrative purposes only

In response to concerns about worker rights, some local organizations have introduced better housing and employment standards for its contractors.

This includes the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, which is overseeing the construction of Qatar’s World Cup stadiums and published a set of workers’ welfare standards to protect employees on its building sites.

Last week, the committee published an article based on its visits to the Midmac labor camp, which is home to the workers constructing Khalifa International Stadium, that concluded its policies were working:

“‘We made a final inspection just before they moved in and had a walk through,’ explained Megan Jenkins, SC Governance and Enforcement Manager, Workers’ Welfare…‘All of our comments and feedback got taken on board. It was like a 3D model of what we had written on paper coming to life. When you see how it can look and work, you realise we are on the right track with the Standards.’”

Last night’s panel discussion followed a workshop attended by migration and human rights experts aimed at exploring the role of Islamic legislation and ethics in how Arab countries deal with expatriates.

Rajai Ray Jureidini, a QFIS professor of ethics and migration who moderated last night’s event, told Doha News that he hoped the discussions would spur a series of academic papers that could eventually be compiled into a book.

Thoughts?