More than 600 people convert to Islam in Qatar during Ramadan
Of the new converts, some 417 are men and 144 are women, and the vast majority (517 people) hail from the Philippines. There were also 32 Sri Lankans, 26 Indians, 15 Nepalis and 25 people from the United Kingdom.
Qatar regularly announces conversions to Islam, which can number in the thousands annually.
The numerous conversions have to do in part with easy access to information about the state religion.
But many expats who move to Muslim countries may also be motivated to convert because of the social and economic benefits, according to some groups.
In 2009, a Nepali trade union called on its government to investigate conversions of nationals who traveled to the Gulf and Malaysia, fearing migrants were being pressured into accepting a new faith.
However, speaking to several expats in the Gulf, Asia News reported many as saying they willingly converted to improve their overall situations. The publication quoted Manoj Karki, who left Kathmandu to work on an oil rig in Qatar, as saying:
“I was hardly managing to save money from my salary, but since I have changed my religion to Islam, I am now more safe, comfortable, and with easy access to jobs.” His wife, who works as a maid in Doha, followed her husband’s example: “My husband converted to Islam and he advised me to do the same, so I did.”
Converting to faiths other than Islam can be a tricky endeavor in Qatar.
According to a 2013 US State Department report on religion in Qatar, it is illegal for non-Muslims to proselytize here, and anyone caught doing so can face up to 10 years in jail.
The report added, however, that the government typically deports suspected proselytizers instead of initiating legal proceedings.
The law also stipulates two years imprisonment and a fine of up to QR10,000 ($2,746) for anyone possessing written or recorded materials or items that support or promote missionary activity.
Additionally, converting to another religion from Islam is considered apostasy and is a capital offense, but the report said that since the country gained independence in 1971, there have been no recorded punishments for this.