It’s hard to be unaware of religion here, (prayer calls, traditional outfits, and a lack of bacon remind you every day!) but it wasn’t until I set foot in Doha’s Grand Mosque yesterday that I realized just how prominent Islam is in Qatar. The mosque had squishy red carpeting, huge pillars, and golden tile. The most surprising thing it had; however, was room to accommodate over 30,000 worshippers.
In Minnesota, less than one percent of the population is Muslim, but in Qatar 95 percent of people are. I didn’t visualize that difference until I saw the vastness of the mosque. But perhaps the most amazing thing I observed was the sheer number of people who are united in their practice of Islam, while I am hardly sure of my own religion.
As I sat in my oversized abaya and unruly headscarf, listening to a tour guide unsuccessfully try to convert me to Islam, I came to the realization that millions on millions of people believe in what he was saying. And in any group of people that big, you will find variety. Being in a state with less than one percent of Muslims can make you see a population a certain way, especially when the media only covers the minority when something bad happens. Being in that huge mosque led me to realize two things: 1) I am horrible at wrapping a headscarf and 2) you cannot judge a group of people based on limited representation. I’m very fortunate I’ve had this trip to show me the completely wonderful people of a group I’ve only even seen cast in an unflattering light.