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Executive Summary

The constitution states Islam is the state religion and sharia shall be “a main source” of legislation. The constitution guarantees the freedom to practice religious rites in accordance with “the maintenance of public order and morality.” The law punishes “offending” Islam or any of its rites or beliefs or committing blasphemy against Islam, Christianity, or Judaism. Sunni and Shia Muslims and eight Christian denominations constitute the registered religious groups in the country. Unregistered religious groups are illegal but generally may practice their faith privately. The government continued to censor or ban print and social media religious material it considered objectionable. In June the government deported an Arabic-speaking evangelical Christian pastor after interrogating him for three days on charges of leading a place of worship without authorization and inviting non-Christians to his church. Conversion to another religion from Islam is defined by the law as apostasy and illegal, although there have been no recorded punishments for apostasy since the country’s independence in 1971 On May 18 AJ+ Arabic, an online media platform run by the government-owned Al-Jazeera network, posted a video on Facebook and Twitter that stated that Israel is the biggest “winner” from the Holocaust and that Zionism “suckled from the Nazi spirit” and that “some people believe that Hitler supported Zionism.” The network apologized for the video, removed it from its site, and took disciplinary action against the reporter responsible. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) identified numerous anti-Semitic references in Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MOE) textbooks.

Privately owned media as well as social media included anti-Semitic material in their content. On May 22, Ahmed Al-Raissouni, head of the International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), posted an article entitled “Why It Is Necessary to Question the Holocaust” on the IUMS website and his personal website and Facebook page. According to his posting, the Holocaust narrative “fabricated by the Zionist movement” contains “politically slanted and questionable” material. On June 12, on a program on Al-Araby TV, Ahmad Zayed, a professor of sharia at the state-run Qatar University, stated that although sharia allows Christians to run for public office, Muslims should not vote for them since sharia requires rulers to be Muslim.

In January a delegation led by the Secretary of State met with senior counterparts in Doha and signed a statement of intent to “support the shared ideals of tolerance and appreciation for diversity.” In April the Special Advisor for Religious Minorities met in Doha with officials to urge the government to allow greater religious freedom for minorities, and with representatives of religious groups to discuss their concerns. Embassy representatives met with government officials to express concern over anti-Semitic cartoons. The Charge d’Affaires also met with leadership at Al-Jazeera regarding anti-Semitic political cartoons. The embassy continued to meet with relevant government bodies, as well as with quasi-governmental religious institutions concerning the rights of religious minorities, Sunni-Shia relations, and anti-Semitism. In July the embassy participated in a religious freedom conference between Christian leaders and Muslim leaders to discuss religious tolerance hosted by the Center for Interfaith Dialogue (DICID).

International Religious Freedom Reports
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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future