November 22, 2016: Haram in Qatar, or How I Learned Not to Cast the First Stone

According to The Qatar Tribune, Qatari customs officials destroyed some 31,000 bottles of wine seized after routine inspections of incoming shipping containers in the nation’s port.

According to a sociology instructor I spoke to during a school visit today, it is almost impossible to discuss homosexuality, divorce, or women’s rights.  Students aver conversation on these topics because, like alcohol and pork, they are haram – forbidden in Islam.

For that matter, the community college we visited today as part of the TEACH Fellowship was segregated – with one campus for boys and the rest of the space for girls.  The female students – most wearing a full niqab – were so uncomfortable speaking in front of the men in our group that they turned away and faced a wall rather than look at us.

I paid two dollars for a delicious chicken curry in an Indian restaurant in one of Doha’s img_20161122_113952.jpgpoor, tumbledown neighborhoods dedicated exclusively to its massive, segregated population of guestworkers.  There was not a single Qatari eating in that restaurant – and the only ones outside were driving through in nice cars, passing from point A to point C and bypassing slummy, sloppy point B entirely.

While walking in Doha’s Souq Waqif this evening, I came across an informational pamphlet marked as free to all non-Muslims.  It is called “Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction?” and deals largely with perceived inconsistencies in the New Testament.  It sets out to prove that Jesus cannot be God’s son and that thereby, Christianity is based on blasphemous assumptions, and therefore that Islam is the one true faith.


It’s easy for an American walking the streets of Doha to cluck his tongue and sigh.  It’s not hard to say that this city is full of narrow-minded fanatics.  A privileged, homogeneous upper class with little tolerance for other cultures, including those of the Pakistani guestworkers who do all of the hardest work for the least glory.

But that would be forgetting, in order, that the United States still treats drug addiction as a crime instead of a sickness.  That many families and certain states still insist that evolution and climate change should be taught in our public schools as controversies alongside with more acceptable Christian (and corporate) perspectives.  That we have a president-elect who says Roe v. Wade was a mistake – while bragging about the women he’s harassed and assaulted.  When was the last time you saw a wealthy white person stopping for dinner in a poorer, blacker neighborhood on the other side of town?  And how many times have you heard a so-called Christian say that Islam is a religion of hate, or something equally incendiary?

What were we talking about again?  How backward the Muslim world is on so, so many things?

The Doha skyline, picture perfect.

Seems like they are in good company.

I’ve traveled to more than a tenth of the countries on this Earth, and if I’m able to make any generalization safely, it is this:

Every society is a work in progress.

Even yours.

Maybe especially yours, since it’s your house to fix up.

Doha under construction, working hard to be done in time for the 2022 World Cup.