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Qatar Takes Advantage of 2022 World Cup Moments to Change Perceptions of Islam

Qatar made the 2022 World Cup an event to replace the understanding of Islam in some football supporters. This Gulf country is the first Muslim country to host the World Cup. With its wealth of gas, Qatar makes a special row of mosques that bring to life the curiosity of some visitors.

One of them is the Canadian couple Dorinel and Clara Popa. They listened to the call to prayer in an Ottoman-looking mosque in the Katara cultural area of Doha.

The Doha Blue Mosque is recognizable for its exclusive mosaic of blue and purple tiles on its walls. A guide took the couple around to a difficult interior overrun by giant hanging lights.

Dorinel Popa, a 54-year-old accountant, explained the couple had witnessed Islam for the first time. "We are prejudiced against the culture and some Muslims, because of the lack of knowledge," he said.

"We have some considerations in our heads and right now it's likely that some of them will be different," said his wife, a 52-year-old doctor.

Outside the mosque there are booklets in various languages explaining Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Qatar serves Arabic coffee and dates as a companion.

Syrian volunteer Ziad Fateh explained the World Cup was an opportunity to introduce millions of people to Islam. He wants to replace the misunderstanding of religion widely associated in the West with radicalism.

"We are increasingly explaining to residents about norms, the virtues of kinship ties, and respecting neighbors and non-Muslims," he said.

Near the mosque, several volunteers wrote it: "Ask me about Qatar."

A Palestinian volunteer, Somaya, explained the majority of questions about women in Islam being caught in veils, polygamy, and what is wrongdoing.

In the Pearl area, where many expatriates live and often visit expensive cafes and restaurants, murals have been drawn with footage of the Prophet Muhammad remembering good morality. High-end shopping centers place advertisements promoting Islam.

In the Souq Waqif market, where several thousand fans join every day, free books and brochures are left in one of the alleys that say, "If you are looking for happiness, you will find it in Islam".

Near Souq, the Sheikh Abdulla bin Zaid Islamic Cultural Centre is open 12 hours a day for recreation.

Some Muslim leaders in Qatar have said they are trying to change football supporters' understanding of Islam. Sultan bin Ibrahim Al Hashemi, a professor of sharia law at the Qatar Campus who chairs the Voice of Islam radio station, explained the World Cup should be used to find new converts and challenge Islamophobia.

"I will offer them to convert to Islam. If I find an opportunity, I will offer them Islam easily and gracefully, if I don't find an opportunity, I will tell them if you are our guest and our brother in humanity," he said. But he made it clear that Islam does not accept forced religious conversions.

A senior official in Qatar's religious waqf ministry explained that the intention was not to make some people hijra religious, but to change their opinions on Islam.

One of them is a football supporter, Petr Lulic, who is called by the Croatian people, explaining, "It's a good opportunity to learn more and more about Islam but there is nothing new throughout the football competition."

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