Rumours have been circulating online that four football fans that came to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup converted to Islam after watching a presentation by controversial Indian televangelist Zakir Naik, who has publically supported former Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. Since November 20, 2022, they’ve been sharing a video as “proof”. While the video does indeed show people converting after one of Naik’s conferences, it actually dates from May 2016 and is thus an old video with no connection to the current World Cup.
If you only have a minute
- A video showing four people converting to Islam has been circulating online since November 20, 2022, with posts in English, Arabic and French claiming that the people in the video are football fans who came to Qatar for the World Cup. One of the posts, in English, garnered more than 140,000 views.
- The posts featuring the video state that this scene supposedly took place after a conference organised alongside the football tournament by a controversial Indian televangelist named Dr Zakir Naik, who is accused of money laundering and has publicly stated his support for Osama bin Laden.
- A keyword search revealed that the original video is from 2016. The scene did indeed take place during a conference by televangelist Dr Zakir Naik held in Qatar and a number of people converted after seeing him speak.
- Several media outlets have reported that Qatar actually invited Dr Zakir Naik to hold conferences alongside the football competition.
The fact-check, in detail
Did football fans who came to Qatar for the World Cup end up converting to Islam? That’s a rumour that has been spreading on social media, often connected to a video that’s been circulating since November 20, the day the competition kicked off. The footage shows a man standing behind a microphone and four men repeating his words in Arabic and English.
First in Arabic and then in English, the man says: “There is no God but Allah and I bear witness that Prophet Mohammed…”
The video cuts off at this point, but the end of his English phrase, if the same as in Arabic, is likely “Prophet Mohammed is the messenger of Allah.”
This phrase comes from the shahada (“ٱلشَّهَادَة” in Arabic, which translates roughly to “testimony”). Anyone embracing the Muslim faith must repeat these words.
“They come to watch the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. After listening to the call of Allah, they converted to Islam. Allahu Akhbar!” posted this Twitter user. His post has since been shared more than a thousand times.
This post in French explains that the man leading the shahada in the video is Dr Zakir Naik, a controversial Indian televangelist accused of money laundering and hate speech.
The video was also posted on Facebook. One post in English garnered more than 140,000 views and more than 10,000 “likes”.
A conference from 2016
If you type the keywords “Qatar islam Zakir Naik” into Google, adding that you only want content that was first posted online before October 31, 2022, then you’ll find a video published in May 2016 showing the same event as the footage that has recently been circulating. The backdrop is the same: a blue star on the ground, green decor in the background, and a red and gold chair on the stage. The people are also wearing the same clothes.
The video is titled, in English, “Does God (Creator) exist? By Dr Zakir Naik Doha Qatar”.
There are other videos that show the same conference including one titled, in English, “4 people accepting islam in Qatar by dr zakir naik 26-05-2016”. In this video, you can hear the exact same words as in the video that has been circulating recently.
If you type the name of the conference, “Does god exist”, and “Zakir Naik” into the search bar on Facebook, then you’ll find a post from Dr Zakir Naik himself, dated May 25, 2016, promoting this event.
“Dr Zakir Naik’s Qatar tour, 26th May 2016, 8:00 pm. Does God Exist? at the Katara Cultural Village Amphitheatre, Doha, Qatar”, reads the poster.
Al Sharq, a Qatari media outlet that supports the government, also documented Naik’s conference in an article published in May 2016. “The Foundation of the Katara Cultural Village welcomed the celebrated Indian preacher and debater, Dr Zakir Naik […] The conference ended with the conversion of eight people to Islam,” the article stated.
But Zakir Naik is indeed in Qatar
While this video wasn’t taken during the 2022 World Cup, media outlets, including India Today, have reported that Dr Zakir Naik is indeed in Qatar right now.
Several journalists shared a video that they claimed showed Naik in one of the stadiums where World Cup games are being held, though it is impossible to verify that it is indeed the preacher in the video.
“Preacher Sheikh Zakir Naik is in Qatar during the World Cup and will hold numerous religious conferences during the World Cup,” wrote Faisal Alhajri, a presenter with the Qatari television channel Alkass, in a tweet posted on November 19, 2022.
A medical doctor by training, Zakir Naik is the creator of the Islamic Research Foundation. He is also the person behind Peace TV, a television channel that has more than 200 million viewers, but which has been banned in a number of countries, including India, Pakistan, the United Kingdom and Canada— because it was filled with hate speech and incitations to terrorism. Naik often holds conferences on Facebook Live and his page has amassed more than 22 million followers.
The preacher has publicly announced his support for the former leader of Al Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden. Charged with money laundering in 2016, Naik currently resides in Malaysia.