New religious groups, especially small groups, said they continued to have difficulties gaining or maintaining registration, particularly because of the requirement a group demonstrate it had over 1,500 members, and because of bureaucratic inefficiencies in the MFA. Religious leaders stated the inability to register made it difficult for religious groups to conduct financial activity. The government continued to bar non-Abrahamic religious groups from registering.
The government maintained an official register of previously approved Christian denominations, including the Catholic, Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, Coptic, Lebanese Maronite, Filipino Evangelical, and Indian Christian churches.
According to representatives of religious groups, the government maintained its view of members of religious groups other than Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as transient members of the community not requiring permanent religious clergy or facilities. The government continued to permit adherents of unrecognized religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and the Bahai Faith, and small Christian congregations, to worship privately in their homes, workplaces, and with others.
The Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs reported it continued to hire clerics and assign them to specific mosques. It continued to provide thematic guidance for Friday sermons and reviewed content but did not require clerics to obtain prior approval of their sermons. Although the government reserved the right to take judicial action against individuals who did not follow the guidance, there were no reported instances of the government doing so, reportedly because clerics adhered to the guidance.
As in past years, the government issued a decree during Ramadan describing its view on the correct way for individuals to perform their religious duties as Muslims. The emir again personally financed the Hajj for some citizen and noncitizen pilgrims who could not otherwise afford to travel to Mecca.
The MFA-led permanent intergovernmental committee continued to address the concerns of non-Muslim religious groups, including legal incorporation and sponsorship of religious leaders.
While the government maintained its policy of reviewing foreign newspapers, magazines, and books for “objectionable” religious content, journalists and publishers reportedly continued to practice self-censorship regarding material the government could consider hostile to Islam. Sources said the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs continued to censor or ban texts on Shia Islam, or those sympathetic to Da’esh (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) or proselytizing religions other than Islam.
The government continued to permit non-Muslim religious groups and individuals to import holy books and other religious items for personal or congregational use.
Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, and other unrecognized religious groups continued to lack authorized facilities in which to practice their religions. The Mesaymir Religious Complex known as “Church City” continued to provide worship space for the eight registered Christian denominations. The government allowed unregistered churches to worship there as well, but only under the patronage of one of the eight recognized denominations.
Christian leaders continued to report government efforts to facilitate the construction of new worship space, provide security, and improve infrastructure in Mesaymir. In October Evangelical Churches Alliance Qatar (ECAQ) broke ground on construction of the first new church since 2013 after the government approved allocation of the land in June.
The government reportedly maintained its policy of not enforcing nondiscrimination laws, although sources said there had been no cases of litigation involving religious discrimination to test the policy.
The government prohibited the slaughter of animals outside of licensed facilities, a measure it said was designed to ensure hygienic conditions for slaughter. In practice, individuals were able to conduct ritual slaughter in private. For example, Nepali Hindus reported they were able to perform sacrifices in housing accommodations.
In February government-owned Qatar TV transmitted a live broadcast of a Friday sermon delivered by Saudi cleric Sa’ad Ateeq al-Ateeq in which he prayed for Jews to be killed. The cleric’s sermon reportedly was not government-written and the government did not permit him to give a sermon in the country after February.
For a second year in a row, there were no reported instances of the government censoring the expression of peaceful religious views on the internet. Church leaders and other religious groups said online commentators practiced self-censorship and relied instead on word of mouth and email newsletters to distribute information.
While proselytizing remained punishable by up to five years in prison, the government’s policy continued to be to deport foreigners suspected of proselytizing without formal legal proceedings.
Church leaders stated their ability to collect and distribute funds for charity continued to be limited by the government’s restrictions on the number and type of bank accounts churches could hold, as well as reporting requirements on contractors doing business with the churches and on donors. Some smaller, unregistered churches continued to use personal accounts of religious leaders for church activities.