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Visitors to Qatar this summer who expose too much skin in public can expect a friendly reminder from locals to cover up.
A new campaign set to launch in Qatar next month will ask everyone in the Muslim country, whether visiting or residing there, to dress in accordance with Islamic standards. Eighty-five percent of the population are expatriates, and the country expects to see a heavy influx of Western travelers this fall for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the biggest single-event sporting competition in the world.
According to Doha News, "Reflect Your Respect" is not state-sponsored, but rather a grassroots campaign funded by participating Qataris, all or most of whom are women.
"Reflect Your Respect” has already gained some traction on social media, with the Twitter-friendly declaration "Leggings are not pants." Beginning on June 20, Qatari women participating in the campaign will distribute flyers asking both men and women to “please dress modestly in public places by covering from shoulders to knees.”
“If you are in Qatar, you are one of us,” the message reads. “Help us preserve Qatar’s culture and values, please dress modestly in public places.”
The brochures advise that dresses, shorts, tank tops, short-sleeved shirts and leggings (which "are not pants"!) are not permissible to wear. It also says women should “avoid wearing any garments that are too tight, too short or translucent” and only wear swimwear at a beach or pool.
“Reflect your Respect” spokeswoman Umm Abdullah told Doha News the purpose of the campaign is to encourage more interaction between visitors or expats and Qataris.
“People say they don’t meet enough Qatari people, but this is because we don’t want to go to these places and see these things,” Abdullah said. “Our kids as well, we don’t want them to end up imitating this -- we want to preserve our traditions and our values. [Expats] have their own places where they don’t have to be covered, but we have the right to go to hospitals, to the market, to the malls, to the beach, without seeing these things.”
The campaign says the standards are part of Qatari law in the state’s constitution, which reads in Article 57: “[A]biding by public order and morality, observing national traditions and established customs is a duty of all who reside in the State of Qatar or enter its territory.” Officially, Qatari state tourism recommends that men and women “dress modestly as a courtesy to both Qataris and Muslims” in public places. It suggested instead that tourists wear lightweight summer fabrics since temperatures often surpass 100 degrees Fahrenheit. At hotel beaches, swimwear is acceptable.
While many have shown support for the campaign’s call for respect, some residents of Qatar have been more critical.
“It is completely understandable to ask expats to dress appropriately in religious and official locations, but not in malls, beaches or souqs, [the open-air marketplaces] commonly known for being the first attractions of expats,” an unnamed American resident told Al Arabiya News.
“Qatar is becoming a multicultural country and needs to accommodate the ‘cultures’ of other people,” Qatari native Hammoud Brahim said.