Organizers: Illusionists show in Qatar to go on, despite online furor

Promotional poster for Qatar show

The Illusionists 1903/Facebook

Promotional poster for Qatar show

With reporting from Heba Fahmy

A live magic stage show due to open in Doha tomorrow (Nov. 18) will go ahead as planned, organizers have said, despite a Twitter campaign that has called for the performances to be canceled.

The Illusionists 1903 is set for a four-day run with nine performances at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in Education City from Nov. 18-21, but has met with some controversy as critics claim it offends local religious values and customs.

According to its advertising, the show features eight international magicians and promises “some of the greatest and most dangerous illusions ever built” from what is billed as “the golden age of magic” at the turn of the last century.

Acts include sleight-of-hand magic from showman Mark Kalin, who has made an American Airlines plane disappear in past performances, a clairvoyant double act, a female conjurer and silent comedy that includes juggling and slapstick.

This will be the act’s first time in Qatar. The show has just finished a run in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and travels to Australia for a series of performances through December.

Other versions of the show have already been performed on Broadway, in the Emirates for the past three years and a preview performance has just opened in London’s West End.

Twitter campaign

Despite its success abroad, the upcoming Qatar performances have attracted online opposition. Under the Arabic hashtag  (May God keep Qatar safe from magic), several people are calling on authorities to cancel the shows.

They claim the show is incompatible with the ethics, principles and habits of Qatar society, according to local Arabic daily Al Sharq.

Translation: The magic show is naked women and music: it’s a waste of time and money.

Translation: Magic is against Islam and one of the issues cited in the Quran as atheism.

Others argue that those offended by the event aren’t required to attend:

Translation: I hope that these events are not cancelled, as some have said. The Illusionists provides visual tricks, not magic. The request to cancel the event doesn’t represent me.

Meanwhile, according to the results of a Twitter poll that more than 1,100 people have voted on, opinion about the show seems divided, with 42 percent approving of it and 58 percent opposing it as of this morning.

Magic and “witchcraft” can be controversial issues in Qatar. Earlier this week, the state’s Emir amended the penal code to impose tougher penalties on those found to be engaging in what was termed witchcraft and “quackery.”

A prison sentence of three to 15 years and/or a maximum fine of QR200,000 can be imposed on those practicing for free, or for a fee.

Show must go on

The criticism has caused some confusion about whether the show will continue as planned, especially after photographs were circulated on social media showing some Arabic posters of the event being taken down.

However, speaking to Doha News, Dubai-based organizers Alchemy Project denied the performances would be canceled. CEO Mac S. Far said:

“It’s not true that the show has been cancelled – it is still going ahead. It has all the right permissions that the law in Qatar requires and was given permission from the Ministry of Culture on Oct. 25.”

Far said that in the last two days, the organizers had received complaints about the Arabic translation of the show’s previous promotional line “The golden age of magic,” which he said had been misunderstood by some.

The organizers are now retooling their posters with a different slogan, he said, adding:

“We are a family-friendly, funny, humorous show. Our intention has never been to insult anyone or to demean anyone’s religion. Other versions of this show have been held in Dubai and Abu Dhabi for three years and have been very popular.

We are looking forward to a successful show in Doha and we hope people appreciate it.”

Tickets for the show cost from QR145/person up to QR1,995 and are available through online ticketing site TixBox.

What do you think about the show? Thoughts?

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