Adherents of most major religions in the country worshipped with limited government interference, although there were some restrictions on worship space, registration, and official recognition.
The government reviewed foreign newspapers, magazines, and books for “objectionable” religious content. Journalists and publishers continued to self-censor when reporting on material potentially considered hostile to Islam. On July 18, however, Qatar TV televised an anti-Semitic sermon delivered by Sheik Tareq Al-Hawwas in which he prayed for Jews to be killed in retaliation for the conflict in Gaza. The sheik’s sermon was not government-written.
In contrast to prior years, there were no reports of government censorship of the peaceful expression of religious views on the internet, although restrictions on proselytizing and speech deemed blasphemous or provoking social discord remained in force, and online commentators practiced self-censorship.
New religious groups, especially small groups, continued to have difficulties gaining or maintaining registration, citing requirements that groups consistently demonstrate they have over 1,500 members, bureaucratic inefficiencies, and lack of governmental support in facilitating registration. Religious leaders stated the inability to register made it difficult for religious groups to conduct financial activity. The MFA was still reviewing one application for registration at year’s end. The government continued to bar non-Abrahamic religious groups from registering.
Hindus, Buddhists, Bahais, and other unrecognized religious groups did not have authorized facilities in which to practice their religions. The government generally considered members of religious groups other than Islam, Christianity, and Judaism as transient members of the community not requiring permanent religious facilities or clergy. The government permitted 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 government prohibited Christian congregations from advertising religious services or using religious symbols visible to the public, such as outdoor crosses. The Mesaymir Religious Complex, widely known as “Church City,” provided worship space for thousands of Christians. Christian leaders reported the government continued to make significant efforts to facilitate the construction of new worship space and improve roads and other infrastructure in Mesaymir. The government’s infrastructure improvements at Church City made it easier for disabled worshippers to participate.
The government permitted the eight registered Christian denominations to worship at Church City, but required unregistered churches to worship under the patronage of one of the eight recognized denominations, and to function as a subgroup of that religious group. For example, Protestant congregations registered as a denomination of the Anglican Church. The MFA reportedly allotted land for the Lebanese Maronite and Filipino Evangelical congregations, the most recently registered religious groups, to construct their own churches.
The government restricted the number and type of bank accounts churches could hold, and imposed reporting requirements on contractors doing business with the churches, as well as on donors supporting them, similar to its approach to the registration of foreign businesses. These restrictions limited the ability of churches to collect and disseminate charity both locally and internationally, leading some smaller, unregistered churches (either under the patronage of one of the recognized churches or not) to use personal accounts of religious leaders for church activities.
The MFA led a permanent intergovernmental committee charged with addressing the concerns of non-Muslim religious groups, including legal incorporation and sponsorship of religious leaders. Clergy members reported they maintained good relations with the government during the year.
The government did not enforce nondiscrimination laws despite reports of employers discriminating based on religion in employment decisions.
The government and ruling family remained strongly linked to Islam. All members of the ruling family and virtually all citizens were Muslim. Most high-level government positions were reserved for citizens; therefore most government officials were Muslims. The emir participated in public prayers during both Eid holiday periods and personally financed the Hajj for some citizen and noncitizen pilgrims who could not otherwise afford to travel to Mecca. As in past years, the government issued a decree during Ramadan describing its view on the correct way to practice Islam.
The Ministry of Islamic Affairs and Endowments controlled clerical affairs, Islamic education for adults and new converts, and the construction of mosques. It also provided thematic guidance and occasionally reviewed content but did not require prior approval of Friday sermons at mosques. The government reserved the right to take judicial action against individuals and facilities when the guidance was not followed, but there were no public examples of the government doing so, primarily because clerics adhered to the guidance. The Ministry of Islamic Affairs hired clerics and assigned them to specific mosques.