Why the plan for 250,000 free Qur’ans at World Cup is flawed

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An initiative to hand out free translations of the Qur’an in four languages as da’wa, though well-intentioned, is unlikely to be effective, writes Lina Lewis.

Complimentary Qur’an copies coming to Brazil_Aquila Style
Image: iStock

Kuwait’s Awqaf Ministry plans to give away 250,000 translated copies of the Qur’an during the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Brazil, according to Kuwaiti daily Al-Qabas. The Qur’an Board said the free copies – in Spanish, Portuguese, English and French – will be distributed at hotels, stadiums and other public places.

For football fans heading to Brazil, there will also be a 32-page guidebook Salam Brasil, to help them navigate around the country during the FIFA World Cup. Published by the Union of Islamic Associations of Brazil in cooperation with the Omani embassy in Brazil, the guidebook will provide Muslim fans with addresses of Islamic centres, mosques and halal restaurants. Union chief Muhammad Hussein Al-Zuqbi said the guidebook will also carry a list of entertainment centres whose activities are in accordance with Sharia laws.

Copies of Salam Brasil have already been provided to airlines in Islamic and Arab countries for distribution among Muslim passengers travelling to Brazil.

This reminds me of the time when I received a free copy of the Bible on my way to school. It was 7am, my head still fuzzy from sleep. I was trudging from the bus stop to the school gates when a copy was shoved into my hands.

I had to say “No, thank you” several times before I could escape the duo who were trying to intercept the stream of students outside my school compound. My schoolmates, who perhaps were too sleepy to refuse, simply took a copy and walked on.

I did not want a copy of the Bible because I knew I wasn’t going to read it anyway, and I wouldn’t know how to dispose of it. Even though I’m Muslim, that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t feel a twinge of guilt for casually tossing the scriptures of other religions.

When I entered the school compound, I was shocked to see a mountain of the free Bibles in the rubbish bin. The bin was overflowing and copies of the Bible also littered the ground, some of them accidentally kicked to a far corner of the path. I felt terrible seeing the abandoned copies.

If the aim of handing out Qur’an translations during the FIFA World Cup is to reach out to non-Muslims and to remind Muslims of the principle of enjoining good and forbidding wrong (3:110, 3:114), then I’m afraid this will be a waste of effort and resources.

I’m not against missionary work. But if preached during an adrenaline-charged event such as the FIFA World Cup, the words of Islam will most likely fall on deaf ears. It’s hard to imagine that football fans will pause to ponder religious issues.

Furthermore, FIFA bans the distribution of religious materials within 5 kilometres of the cities where the matches will be played. With all the Islam-bashing going on everywhere, the last thing Muslims need is to run into trouble.

I hope the Awqaf Ministry will rethink this plan. I really wouldn’t want to see copies of the Qur’an translations littering the Brazilian grounds.

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