Qatar mulling amendment for freedom of worship to non-Muslims

In a significant move towards freeing the strict religious regime in the Gulf, Qatar today told India that it was thinking of bringing constitutional amendment to allow freedom of worship for non-Islamic religious communities.

This was conveyed by the Emir of Qatar Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani when visiting Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani raised the issue of right to freedom of religion and worship to Indian minorities in Qatar.

Qatar has 1,72,868 Indians, according to latest estimates provided by Interior Ministry to Advani.Some Indian delegations also had made representations in this regard.

Winding up his two-day visit to Qatar, Advani told accompanying reporters that he told the Emir that such a freedom was "crucial and vital and under your leadership if it is done, you will be creating history."

"I insisted upon every person living in Qatar having such a right to freedom of religion and worship," Advani told the Emir and Foreign Minister Hamad Bin Jaffim Jabir-Ghani whom he met yesterday.

Sandhurst educated 51-year-old Emir told Advani that they accept the demand and were considering constitutional amendments to give effect to it.

"We want to confer this right on everyone.... It's a conservative society here. We have to proceed slowly and cautiously but we are going to include it in the proposed new constitution," the Qatari ruler said.

He said Qatar has already informally allowed Christians to practice their faith.

Qatar is working on a draft constitution for the past four years and the new constitution may be adopted next year when religious freedom is expected to be incorporated into it.

Advani's raising the issue came in the backdrop of representations made recently for such a freedom.

In the Gulf countries, Hindus face the problem of cremating their dead. Many of the countries do not allow burial of the dead even if the Hindu family seeks it. Qatar allows Hindus to bury their dead if sought.

Advani said he was of the view that international opinion should thrust all countries towards this as it was the hallmark of civilisation.