'I fear for my life': Qatari opposition spokesperson on living in exile

Khalid Al-Hail
Updated 14 September 2017
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'I fear for my life': Qatari opposition spokesperson on living in exile

LONDON: A prominent Qatari opposition figure living in exile in London says he fears for his life, amid worries over his “bad history” with Doha and possible reprisals by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers active in the UK.

Khalid Al-Hail, spokesman for the Qatar National Democratic Party, is organizing a conference in London this week that aims to put forward opposition views.

He has however been forced to keep the venue and most of the speakers secret to avoid the event being disrupted, on top of the wider security concerns he faces.

Al-Hail described how UK counterterror agents had to install safety measures in his home due to the perceived threat against him.

“I fear for my life. I have a very big genuine fear of persecution from Qatar. I know what these guys are doing, and they have lots of bad history,” he told Arab News in an interview.

Al-Hail is a Qatari national and in his youth rubbed shoulders with many prominent people in the Gulf state. But as his concerns over a disconnect between the rulers and people grew, he became an increasingly active opposition voice.

He claims to have been asked to fly back to Qatar in 2014 at the “direct request” of the emir, only to be detained by security agents upon his arrival.

“I was arrested at the airport and detained for 22 days. They tortured me. I escaped and crossed illegally into Saudi Arabia,” said Al-Hail.

Speaking to Arab News at a London hotel, Al-Hail said he now needs 24-hour security, and claims to have received news of a fatwa issued against him by a controversial Doha-based Muslim Brotherhood cleric.

“Tell me how you would feel: Could you just walk in the street? … For me, that’s a big concern,” he said.

Al-Hail is the organizer of the “Qatar, Global Security & Stability Conference” slated for Thursday. It is being held amid the diplomatic row between Qatar and the Anti-Terror Quartet — Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — which accuses Doha of supporting terror groups.

“Qatar is … using the Muslim Brotherhood as a tool to influence the region,” Al-Hail said. “I call (the Muslim Brotherhood) an organized terror movement.”

He promises an “amazing” lineup of speakers at the conference but is keeping most secret due to fears that it will be disrupted.

“I have a very bad experience with the Qatari government, of hunting my speakers, making my life difficult … chasing the venues, trying to buy (them) out,” he said.

“They think that, because they could stop such a thing in Qatar, they could stop it in the UK.”

A “fake” organization has already written to British MPs in an attempt to halt the conference, Al-Hail said.

The London conference will not tell “lies” about Qatar, with its aim being purely to put forward opposition voices.

“We as Qataris don’t have the chance to do so. We don’t have a Parliament … it’s an absolute monarchy regime,” he said. “They never like the other point of view.”

Al-Hail was vague about the Qatar National Democratic Party membership numbers, but insisted the party is made up of a “decent number” of people, including some based in Qatar itself.

The party is strong enough “to change the regime” in Qatar, Al-Hail believes.

“The Qatar government keeps pretending that there is no crisis, there is no problem, that everything is fine, everything is under control, that people in Qatar are very supportive of the regime, which is not true,” he said.

“I just want a reformed Qatar … Yes, I’m concerned about my life. But this is my fight.”


UAE ‘a living example for the peaceful coexistence of all faiths’

Updated 36 min 11 sec ago
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UAE ‘a living example for the peaceful coexistence of all faiths’

  • Every Muslim is an ambassador of Islam, says UAE's grand mufti
  • We should forgive Indian chef Atul Kochhar and teach him about the values of Islam, he says

DUBAI: The UAE has shown the world how people of all faiths and nationalities can live together in peace, which is in line with the teachings of Islam, according to Dubai’s leading religious scholar.
Speaking exclusively to Arab News, Dr. Mohammed Al-Kobaisi, grand mufti of the Department of Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities of Dubai, said that Islam includes the principles of peaceful coexistence and cooperation among all people for goodness and righteousness, to benefit everyone.
“The UAE put these principles into practice and legalized the system in such a way that it not only became a case study but a reality that many people live here,” he said.
“We have more than 200 nationalities who are witnessing that and are a testimony to it.
“Allah Almighty has said repeatedly that all mankind are made from one single male and female, and they are made into races and tribes to know one and other. Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also repeated the same by saying: ‘Oh mankind you are all from Adam,’ and there is no distinction or superiority over Arab or non-Arab, neither white over black or black over white, except by righteousness and good deeds.”
Al-Kobaisi said these principals of peaceful coexistence are deeply rooted in the teachings of Islam.
“Muslims worldwide abide and practice them,” he said. “The UAE has made huge advancement in this area. It works on multiple levels: The education system, preaching within guidelines, the legal system and many others. All these put together make it a beautiful reality that all people in the UAE enjoy and benefit from the practice (of treating everyone equally.)”
The grand mufti said Muslims who live with non-muslims or in non-Muslim countries must be especially responsible with their behavior as they face particular challenges.
“The first (challenges) are those that Muslims are facing with regard to their faith and other worldly matters,” he said. “The other major issue is their reaction towards these (challenges) — their own behavior.”
He added that like it or not, every Muslim is an ambassador of Islam, and how each individual acts and presents himself or herself affects the perception and image of all Muslims.
“(In this regard) Islam actually stands out among many other religions,” said Al-Kobaisi. “If a non-Muslim does something, it does not reflect on his religion but if a Muslim does, then it usually reflects on the image of Islam.
“That's why the messenger of Allah, Prophet Muhammad, has guided us that we need to stand out among people with our characters, behaviors and morals. A Muslim should be known immediately as a Muslim because he is peaceful, respects the system and laws, is helpful to his community and neighbors, is truthful, and does not lie or cheat.”
He said this etiquette of Islam is very important everywhere but becomes even more crucial when dealing with non-Muslims.
“Now you are representing Islam,” said Al-Kobaisi. “Even if you are not a good Muslim, they will take it that this is what actual Muslims do. So you need to be careful and represent the real Islamic values. Muslims should always be ready to cooperate for the goodness and benefit of society.”
Responding to social media outcry over Dubai-based Indian origin chef Atul Kochhar’s tweet on Islam, Al-Kobaisi said such issues should be considered on two levels.

"First, a person who is living as a guest in a country should respect local cultural values and customs to ensure a peaceful coexistence.

“It does not make sense for a person living as a guest to attack local customs and traditions — let alone religious values or Islam at large, categorizing all Muslims and Islam through a narrow prism based on false information they read somewhere,” he said.

The second consideration is legal, given that the UAE has strict laws governing public comments, online or otherwise, about religion and anyone who breaks them can be prosecuted.

As for how Muslims should react to such cases, Al-Kobaisi said they should realize that the person involved is either ignorant or does not have the right information.

In the particular case of the chef, he said it is the duty of Muslims to educate him and share the real values of Islam, while offering forgiveness when warranted.

“We should forgive him and guide, if we realize that his opinion was based on wrong information and wrong experiences he had in the past,” he said.

However, if a person doing such things deliberately to disturb the peace in society, or to gain attention or sympathy, then the case should be referred to the authorities who will deal with it according to the rule of law, he added.