Home About Nation Branding Regional Role Public Engagement Spaces

Qatar's Public Diplomacy Strategies

Regional Role

Role of Religion: Shaping Islam

The opening ceremony of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 made it clear that Qatar wanted the world to gain a stronger and more positive understanding of Islam. For many fans around the world, this was their first time visiting Qatar, and for some, it was their first time even hearing about the nation of Qatar. Qatar also understood that for many people visiting, this was their first time being exposed to the religion of Islam so it was very important to help shape a positive image.

The opening ceremony of the World Cup was narrated by Morgan Freeman and featured Qatari guests such as Ghanim Al Muftah and Dana and Fahad Al Kubaisi. Morgan Freeman starts off by stating: "The world seems so distant and divided. How can so many countries, languages and cultures come together if only one way is accepted" (Zakir-Hussain)? A Quranic verse was then recited by Ghanim in response to that question reads: "O humanity! Indeed, We created you from a male and a female and made you into peoples and tribes so that you may get to know one another. Surely the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous among you."

Having a world-renowned American actor such as Morgan Freeman speak alongside a young Qatari entrepreneur was a very significant moment for Qatar and the FIFA World Cup. It promoted peaceful dialogue between two individuals from different parts of the world both wanting to learn more about each other's culture and promote peace. Korean BTS singer Jung Kook also performed at the opening ceremony portraying Qatar's ability to offer a modern perspective to the world. This played an important role as it allowed fans to understand and view Qatar as an open-minded nation that gives importance to the rest of the world.

The opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup featured world renowned American actor Morgan Freeman having a discussion on peace and understanding with Qatari entrepreneur Ghanim Al Muftah. This was important because it set the stage for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and allowed Qatar to show the world that they are open to dialogue and new perspectives. Courtesy of AP.

Inside the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, visitors could learn more about the diverse elements that make up Islam and the history of the religion. Director of the Museum of Islamic Art Julia Gonella said the: "MIA is the main museum of Islamic art outside of the West, and we cover all of the Islamic world. We have the ambition to show Islamic culture in all its diversity and sort of also show the regional differences," (Agnihotri). The museum was relaunched in time for the FIFA World Cup to include additional elements and history on the impact Islamic culture had on society (Belcher). Multilingual audio features about the history of the Quran and its influence around the world was also part of the MIA experience. Using museums as a way to educate and explain their part and role in world history was a crucial element in Qatar's agenda during the World Cup.

Mosques around Doha also allowed visitors to enter for free and take guided tours in multiple languages to learn more about Islam and mosques. Leaflets on a range of topics about Islam were offered to fans with QR codes in different languages to listen to the Quran in their own languages. Allowing fans to listen to and educate themselves on Islam in their own language was an important initiative for Qatar. A quote from a Colombian family visiting Qatar explained how: "What we've seen is that they've made an effort to change the image that we have in the West of seeing Islam. It's breaking that barrier," said Carlos Bustos, who along with his sons had dressed in traditional Qatari clothes (Henao). Qatar also used volunteers and university students to help foreign visitors learn more about Islam throughout the city. The Exploring Islam series was also an initiative that Qatar put a lot of resources into during the World Cup. Exploring Islam aimed to break barriers of the West's view of Islam by promoting peaceful dialogue and focusing on using cultural understanding as a way to remove prejudices. At the National Museum of Qatar, a talk with international Muslim athletes hosted by the Exploring Islam series was held. This initiative helped to discuss the role of Islam from successful athletes and how the religion has helped their journey. Posters and information centers around the city were filled with positive quotes from the Quran and became a hub for people to get to know the religion with a human and cultural approach to it. Billboards were set up across Doha featuring U.S. Olympic fencer Ibtihaj Muhammed and other Muslim personalities to encourage people to learn more about the religion (Henao).

Qatar's message to the world during the FIFA World Cup was about spreading a positive image of the religion and allowing foreign visitors to learn more and explore Islam. Courtesy of Getty Images

Morocco also played a significant role in helping the positive narrative that was being promoted on Islam and the Muslim countries. With Morocco being the first Arab and African nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup semi-finals, the Arab world came together for a historic moment. A sense of pride and unity was seen throughout Africa and the Middle East. After beating Canada, Belgium, Spain, and Portugal, the Moroccan National Team became a symbol of success for the Muslim world, and Morocco was proud to be given such responsibility. During the penalty shootout in the knockout stages against Spain, the Moroccan national team can be seen reciting the first chapter of the Quran. Morocco was able to fulfill the dream of Arab and African nations for the first time in FIFA World Cup history and the team made sure religion was a big reason for their success. This played an important role in helping Qatar's narrative during the World Cup as it reinforced all the positive initiatives done to promote a peaceful perspective of Islam. Millions of fans were able to see how united the Middle East was and how football brought out the best in all the countries supporting the story of Morocco.