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I'm an American Jew, and my American college roommate is an expat who has been living in Qatar for the last few years. He is Catholic. I told him I want to visit him but he has repeatedly warned me that as a Jewish person this might be a risky move for me, due to his perception of Qatar's opinion of Jewish people.

  • Is there any truth to what he is saying?
  • If so, is there anything I can do to still ensure a safe trip?
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    Are you sure he just doesn’t want you to visit? – Traveller Mar 27 at 7:41
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    You have a on-the-scene, first hand account of a source you trust and you want to ask random strangers on the internet if that is correct? I think you got that backwards. – nvoigt Mar 27 at 15:22
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    @nvoigt - A single person can be influenced by biases or overconfident, even if they live in country. Perhaps they are looking for a broader selection of information, such as testimonials from people who have lived in Qatar longer, Jews who have traveled there, people who can provide research, travel experts.... – Obie 2.0 Mar 27 at 17:00
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    @nvoigt I know people in New York City who won't go into neighborhoods that are perfectly safe. One never goes anywhere between 14th and 34th streets in Manhattan. None of these people grew up in New York City. I would not trust the advice of these people on the subject of visiting New York. Similarly, an expat in Qatar who has never been the target of antisemitism may be wrong about the dangers faced by Jewish visitors to Qatar. It's also possible that the person is right. One way to develop a basis for judging that is to ask around for the experiences of others. – phoog Mar 28 at 5:39
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    My father worked in Qatar for a few months in the mid 2000s. While his direct colleagues knew and didn't mind that he was Jewish, he was told repeatedly NOT to mention it basically anywhere, especially in public or when going through customs. No issues ever came up. – NoseKnowsAll Mar 28 at 15:54
35

No, there is virtually no risk to visiting Qatar as a Jew, nobody even needs to know you're one since US citizens can visit without a visa and your religion is never asked. You may draw some attention if dressed in full-on Hasidic clothing though.

That said, for time being this is a moot point, since Qatar has banned all non-citizens from entering until the coronavirus crisis calms down.

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    Suppose his lst name is Cohen and read this – Rsf Mar 27 at 14:25
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    I have a very Jewish last name and sort of Jewish first name – chiliNUT Mar 27 at 23:39
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    'As long a nobody finds out' isn't much of a reassurance. I'm not saying that there is a reason to be worried (any more than elsewhere), but I think for a bold "No", some sources showing that it's safe if one were to be identified as Jewish would be nice. state.gov sadly doesn't go into this either, but it does warn that public worship for non-Islamic faiths is outlawed, and that religious materials are a sensitive topic. – tim Mar 28 at 18:25
  • @tim And what exactly do you expect to happen if he's "found out", and by how? It's not illegal to be a Jew in Qatar, so the authorities don't care, they even issue visas to Israelis if they have a solid business reason -- Shimon Peres has been there twice! – lambshaanxy Mar 29 at 10:25
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    @lambshaanxy It wasn't illegal to be black in the 60s in the southern US, but it was still advisable to be careful when dealing with the authorities as a black person (it arguably still is). Things one might be worried about could be police brutality, hate crimes, bogus prosecutions/arrests/imprisonment, denial of entry or exit, etc. – tim Mar 29 at 10:46
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Ask other Jewish people and don't trust random strangers that are not Jewish. You are playing with fire here, since there is a not-so-remote possibility you will be detained as an 'Israeli spy' in a dictatorship with no human rights culture.

Qatar funds Hamas and does not recognize Israel. If you have Israeli citizenship you could be in trouble, if you visited Israel or know Israeli people you could also land in trouble.

How would they know? That's a function of how Jewish is your name and how much work they (or their intelligence) will do on your name, looking it up on Facebook, checking it against leaked lists of Israeli citizens and so on.

I don't want to scare you so I'll say that the probability that something bad could happen to you is very low. But it is there. And if something happens you will be in a dictatorial country at the mercy of their government.

To minimize your chances of trouble I'd suggest you speak with people in the Jewish community who know people who went to Qatar or to other Arab countries and keep a very low profile there.

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This might seem like an oddball answer, but I've done the following with a British colleague of mine that was Jewish when we were travelling into Saudi Arabia a few years back:

  • I gave him my golden cross on a neck chain (I've been raised as a catholic)
  • We met up before border control
  • He put it over his polo shirt at border control
  • He hid it under his polo shirt afterwards
  • We both forgot to ask for / give it back when we left, so I'll have to fly into the UK or he'll have to fly into Germany to give it back.

;-)

So ask your American catholic colleagues if you can borrow theirs and give it back when you return! >:-)

P.S. Leave your tefillin back home... ;P
P.P.S. He has a non-jewish name so YMMV

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    I mean, there is reliable mail service between the UK and Germany, if you want your cross back before you next meet your colleague. – mlc Mar 28 at 23:34
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    What exactly do you expect to accomplish with these shenanigans? Nobody asks your religion on arrival to Qatar, and neither are you strip searched. – lambshaanxy Mar 29 at 10:26
  • @lambshaanxy I don't have personal experience with Qatar. Just stating what I did to help a Jewish colleague in Saudi Arabia and we had no problems. – Fabby Mar 29 at 14:20
  • @mlc He still owes me a beer for that stunt! (And now we have a reason to meet up for that beer!) 0:-) – Fabby Mar 29 at 14:22
  • -1, this doesn't even attempt to answer the question. OP has asked if it is safe to travel to Qatar. Instead of answering that, you've given an anecdote relating to your friend's travel to Saudi Arabia, and a rather meaningless one at that since we have no way of knowing whether it made any difference at all to his safety. EDIT: I see you are new here. Stackexchange strongly discourages posting side-topic comments as answers. Answers should directly address the question being asked (with some exceptions). – JBentley Mar 30 at 0:55
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There are two options 1-Do not go, in theory they cannot detain on the basis of religion and since you may go as a US citizen and you need no visa for Qatar, you may THEORETICALLY face no problems, but in practice, as soon as they know you're Jewish, they'll be gaming you as you wish. 2-Pretend to be a non-Jew, lie if they go to the unlikely extent of asking your religion.

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