Presented by The Qatar Foundation
Arts, Social Sciences, Humanities, and Islamic Studies Research: Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum 2011
Posted February 15, 2012
The Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum convened for the second time from November 20 – 22, 2011, in Doha, to discuss progress and challenges in transforming Qatar from a resource-based to a knowledge-based economy and in creating a more sustainable future. The Foundation recruited eminent scientists and leaders from Qatar and around the world to share their insights on how to build a robust R&D infrastructure, encourage regional and worldwide collaborations, and foster entrepreneurship in Qatar. In addition, one day was devoted to a series of research presentations in five areas: energy, environmental, biomedical, computing, and arts and humanities research.
This eBriefing looks at the research presented in the arts, social sciences, humanities, and Islamic studies research track—comprising three general sessions. The three general sessions spanned social sciences research, cultural commentary, and economic analysis. A panel of distinguished experts in various fields of the humanities and social sciences challenged the presenters to consider new ways of thinking about their methodologies and their results. The sessions covered research questions of specific interest to Qatar and the Gulf States, among them understanding the role of Islamic law in questions of modern jurisprudence, unpacking the effects of increased urbanization in Doha, analyzing the changed and unchanged patterns of daily life in Qatar, and considering the various manifestations of civic engagement in the country.
Use the tabs above to find a meeting report and additional information from this event.
A report and multimedia presentations from the forum-wide sessions can be found in the Building a Knowledge-based Economy in Qatar eBriefing.
Distinguished Research Award Sponsors
Scientific Publication Partner
Books and Journal Articles
Ahmed A. Villaggio and culture change: an ethnographic analysis. Qatar Foundation Annual Research Forum Proceedings 2011;(2011):AHOS1.
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Garcia R, Flores ES, Chang SM. Healthy children, healthy communities: schools, parks, recreation, and sustainable regional planning. Fordham Urban Law Journal 31:1267-.
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Musaiger AO. Overweight and obesity in the Eastern Mediterranean Region: can we control it? Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal 2004;10(6).
Musaiger AO, Shahbeek NE, Al-Mannai M. The role of social factors and weight status in ideal body-shape preferences as perceived by Arab women. Journal of Biosocial Science 2004;36(6):699-707.
Knez K. Being Muslim and being female. In: Wright J, Macdonald D, eds. Young People, Physical Activity and the Everyday. Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge; 2010:104-117.
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Amin H. Arab media audience research: developments and constraints. In: Arab Media: Power and Weakness. New York: Continuum; 2008:69-90.
Eveland WP, Shah DV. The impact of individual and interpersonal factors on perceived news media bias. Political Psychology 2003;24(1):101-117.
Hoffner C, Rehkoff RA. Young voters' responses to the 2004 U.S. presidential election: social identity, perceived media influence, and behavioral outcomes. Journal of Communication 2011;61(4):732-757.
Hussain AJ. The media's role in a clash of misconceptions: the case of the Danish Muhammad cartoons. The Harvard International Journal of Press/Politics 2007;12(4):112-130.
King J, Zayani M. Media, branding and controversy: perceptions of Al Jazeera in newspapers around the world. Journal of Middle East Media 2008;4(1):27-43.
Kraidy MK. From activity to interactivity: the Arab audience. In: Arab Media: Power and Weakness. New York: Continuum; 2008:91-102.
Peterson MA. Making global news: "freedom of speech" and "Muslim rage" in U.S. journalism. Contemporary Islam 2007;1(3):247-264.
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Khalid Mohammed Muftah
Coulson N. A History of Islamic Law. New Brunswick N.J.: Aldine Transaction; 2011.
Dien M. Islamic Law: from Historical Foundations to Contemporary Practice. Notre Dame Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press; 2004.
Hallaq W. The Origins and Evolution of Islamic Law. Cambridge UK; New York: Cambridge University Press; 2005.
Hallaq W. An Introduction to Islamic Law. Cambridge UK; New York: Cambridge University Press; 2009.
Hallaq W. Shari'ah: Theory, Practice, Transformations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 2009.
Kamali M. Shari'ah law: an Introduction. Oxford England: Oneworld; 2008.
Hadeel Ali Radwan
Ahmed H. Islamic law, adaptability and financial development. Islamic Economic Studies 2006;13(2).
El-Gamal MA. An economic explication of the prohibition of Gharar in classical islamic jurisprudence. In: Leicester, UK, 13–15 August 2000; 2001.
El-Gamal MA. Incoherence of contract-based Islamic financial jurisprudence in the age of financial engineering. Wisconsin International Law Journal 2007;25(605).
El-Gamal M. Islamic Finance Law, Economics, and Practice. Cambridge [UK]; New York: Cambridge University Press; 2006.
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Salama AM. Design intentions and users responses: Assessing outdoor spaces of Qatar University Campus. Open House International 2009;34(1):82-93.
Salama AM. Contemporary Qatari architecture as an open textbook. Archnet-IJAR—International Journal of Architectural Research [serial online] 2007;1(3):101-114.
Salama AM. An exploratory investigation into the impact of international paradigmatic trends on Arab architectural education. Global Built Environment Review—GBER [serial online] 2007;6(2):31-43.
Salama AM, O'Reilly W, Noschis K, eds. Architectural Education Today: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. Lausanne: Comportements; 2002.
Salama AM. When good design intentions do not meet users expectations: exploring Qatar University Campus outdoor spaces. Archnet-IJAR—International Journal of Architectural Research [serial online] 2008;2(2):57-77.
Salama AM. Trans-disciplinary knowledge for affordable housing. Open House International 2011;36(3):7-15.
Salama AM. Towards a responsive architectural and urban education for understanding of and intervening in Islamic societies. Lonaard Magazine 2011;4(1):130-7.
Anderson MK, Alnaimi TN, Alhajri SH. National student research fairs as evidence for progress in Qatar's Education for a New Era. Improving Schools 2010;13(3):235-248.
Brewer DJ, Augustine CH, Zellman GL, et al. Education for a New Era: Design and Implementation of K-12 Education Reform in Qatar. Santa Monica, California: Rand-Qatar Policy Institute, Rand Corporation; 2007.
Dagher ZR, BouJaoude S. Science education in Arab States: bright future or status quo? Studies in Science Education 2011;47(1):73-101.
Gonzalez GC, Karoly LA, Constant L, et al. Facing Human Capital Challenges of the 21st Century: Education and Labor Market Initiatives in Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2008.
Pinar Ucar, Badria Ali Al-Harami, and Richard Leete
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Ahmed Khalif Osman Warfa
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Aramesh K. Justice as a principle of Islamic bioethics. American Journal of Bioethics 2008;8(10):26-27.
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Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences and Islamic Studies Research Panel
Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, UK
Mostafa Kharoufi, PhD
Economic and Social Council
Harvard University & Ardalan Associates, LLC
Ali Mohayuddin Qaradaghi, PhD
Mohammad Hussien Al-Anazi
Awqaf Ministry of Qatar
Darwish Al-Emadi, PhD
Badria Ali Al-Harami
Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning
Fatima Al-Kubaisi, PhD
Ashraf Galal, PhD
Kelly Knez, PhD
Aspetar-Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital
Richard Leete, PhD
Qatar General Secretariat for Development Planning
Khalid Mohammed Muftah
Omar Bin al-Khattab, Qatar
Ziad Said, PhD
College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, Doha
Ashraf Salama, PhD, FRSA, FHEA
Qatar Statistics Authority
Sue Underwood OBE
Qatar Museums Authority
Aljazzi Hamad Fetais
Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar
Hadeel Ali Radwan
Ahmed Khalif Osman Warfa
Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar
Ruth Mas, PhD
Ruth Mas is an Assistant Professor of Contemporary Islam. A graduate of the University of Toronto's Religious Studies Department, she is currently working in the Department of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her research expertise lies in the intellectual and political dimensions of contemporary Islam and she focuses on issues of secularism and contemporary Islamic thought. She is specifically interested in Islamic discourses that explicitly support the secularization and reform of the Islamic tradition and examines how they are shaped by secular power. Ruth Mas is currently completing a book project entitled: On Secular Islam: Time, Power and Tradition in Contemporary Islamic Thought.
Professor Mas has published widely in the areas Muslim subject and identity formation, secularism, post-colonialism, transnationalism, affect and temporality as well as in the fields of gender and Islam and classical Islamic thought. She has held visiting positions at Cornell University, Cambridge University, the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities–Essen, and at Viadrina University–Frankfurt Oder. She has also been invited to participate in the School of Criticism and Theory at Cornell University, the Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory at the University of California–Irvine, and the Foucault Spring School at the Catholic University of Leuvan. Mas conducts her field work in Morocco and Syria, and her work is recognized for its interdisciplinarity.
Qatar's pursuit of a knowledge-based economy is directed by its high profile in an interconnected world where knowledge resources are increasingly crucial to sustaining economies. The Qatar Foundation's emphasis on education and research recognizes the productive assets of human capital and technology as well as the globally competitive need for interdisciplinary and boundary-crossing innovation developed from the research community. It strives to produce information and knowledge for all, while focusing on the needs of developing societies around the world. The creation of knowledge clusters in the universities and research centers of Doha reflects Qatar's recognition that the establishment of knowledge in the form of the arts, social sciences, humanities, and Islamic studies is a crucial aspect of its national enterprise, especially if it is going to grow its capacity to intervene collectively and strategically on a global scale. These are the fields that shape the ways in which conceptual frameworks, social structures, cultural contexts and social relations are communicated and rendered meaningful to others.
Qatar's global competitiveness has resulted in the spectacular economic growth and urbanization of its capital city Doha, whose changing urban geography has been driven by economic diversification that is transforming its public spaces. The large and increasing revenues from its exports of gas and oil have allowed Qatar to invest heavily in its economic and social infrastructures and in the well-being of its people. Extensive infrastructural plans and urban development designs have vastly restructured urban spatial geography and the social practices and patterns of its urban life, transforming traditional Arabic social interactions and aligning individual and social identities with the values of the economic cosmopolitanism of middle class society.
Qatar's globalization is shaping the values of the country's civil society. Whether or not this will lead to the adoption of Western liberal values and these values' claims to democracy depends on the degree to which Qatari civil society supports the cultural and ideological icons of globalized financial capitalism and its elites. The reorganization of Qatar's civic and social institutions is building up the social capital, trust, and shared values that are holding Qatari society together. Qatari citizens have an opportunity to pursue political solutions for the wide variety of pressing issues that arise in developing societies. In Qatar, these issues include the needs that accompany the evolution of social formations and family units, different barriers to social development, education reform, the creation of mass media and communication, health advocacy and gender, and the role, economics, and welfare of migrant laborers. The ability of civil society to advocate for and collaborate with the State on urgent matters will amplify the productive and prosperous aspects of Qatari society and ensure the self-sufficiency of its citizens.
Qatar's openness to the world is conditioned by its attachment to the Islamic tradition and the country's grounding in the values of Arab society. Qataris are considering carefully what this adherence will mean with regard to the impact and strictures of global power. Because of the rapid social change and innovation that Qatar is experiencing, it is to be expected that traditional social values and practices are transformed. However, the centrality of the Islamic tradition in Qatar motivates Qataris to ensure the continued relevance of practices legislated and prescribed by the Qur'an and Hadith. This adherence to the Islamic tradition not only shapes the affective ties and sensibilities of Qatari Muslims, it also compels them to preserve their artistic, legal, and pedagogical traditions. As a result, Qatar is building museums, deliberating the limits of economic and jurisprudential change, and creating international information resources and databanks of Islamic bioethics.
Badria Ali Al-Harami, General Secretariat for Development Planning
Ashraf Galal, Qatar Charity
Richard Leete, General Secretariat for Development Planning
Ziad Said, College of The North Atlantic-Qatar
Ashraf M. Salama, Qatar University
Pinar Ucar, Qatar Statistics Authority
Sue Underwood OBE, Qatar Museums Authority
Amani Ahmed, Qatar University
Aljazzi Hamad Fetais, Qatar University
Ahmed Khalid Osman Warfa, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar
- The Qatari fertility rate is in decline.
- Kenyan migrants face challenges due to Qatar's high cost of living and because they are not hired in the jobs for which they have been trained.
- Doha will be characterized in the future by the "differential space" of proactive participation, innovation, and diversity.
- The Villaggio in Doha has shifted the consumer practices and social behaviors of the population.
- The Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) assesses the quality of national institutions in delivering basic social, educational, health, cultural, media, and environmental services to Qataris.
Qatar's spectacular economic growth has transformed the organization of its society. One of the most marked changes in a society that is characterized by strong family cohesion and that identifies strongly with the Arabo-Islamic tradition, is in family formation. Badria Ali Al-Harami, Social Researcher at the General Secretariat for Devleopment Planning, working with Pinar Ucar, Statistical Specialist at the Qatar Statistics Authority and Richard Leete, Director of the Department of Social Development at the General Secretariat for Development Planning in Doha, Qatar, asks how and to what extent recent economic and social changes have affected Qatari family formation and child rearing, and whether these changes follow marriage and child rearing patterns in other countries.
Al-Harami has found that a rising proportion of Qatari women remain permanently unmarried and this has affected the fertility rates. (Fertiilty rate is the number of births per woman. Total fertility rate represents the number of children that would be born to a woman if she were to live to the end of her childbearing years and bear children in accordance with current age-specific fertility rates.) One reason may be that, in general, Qatari men are attaining lower levels of education than women, and many women are remaining unmarried because they are reluctant to marry someone of lower educational status. Al-Harami and her team has found that another reason for declining birth rate lies in the fact that the more educated a women is, the fewer children she has. Pinar Ucar also reported on the large decline in Qatari fertility in the past generation, and found that this change is a result of women marrying later, starting childbearing later, and ending childbearing earlier. In addition, women who marry men of high occupational status are having fewer children. Richard Leete believes that another factor in the decrease in Qatari fertility is the rising incidence of divorce; unlike their male counterparts, Qatari women who divorce are much less likely to remarry.
The Qatari family unit is also a keen interest of the Supreme Council for Family Affairs (SCFA) of Qatar. The Council's purpose is to enhance the role of the Qatari family in society and to advance the sustainable development of Qatari society. These goals have led the SCFA to assess the quality of national institutions in delivering basic social, educational, health, cultural, media, and environmental services to Qataris. Ashraf Galal, Local Development Director at Qatar Charity, documented and discussed how the SCFA has attempted to improve the quality of national services offered by the government and the extent to which these services respond to Qatari needs.
Galal's study integrates a comprehensive methodological and situational analysis with an impressive array of qualitative and quantitative measures that cut across different categories of age, gender, class, marriage status, housing, and educational levels. The study assesses how Qataris perceive the current services offered by the government and identifies remaining barriers to social development. In light of the study's results, Galal recommends establishing and maintaining community centers as a social enterprise shared by government groups, NGOs, and the private sector in order to encourage community participation and to motivate and create social and family cohesion.
Immigrants are crucial to the economic growth and organization of Qatari society
Ahmed Warfa, of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar, has conducted an exploratory survey of Kenyan migrants in Qatar and has found that Kenya is one of highest recipients in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) of inward remittances—the money sent back to Kenya by Kenyans living and working abroad. His study of the impact of remittance and migration on the local economy of Kenyans in Qatar has found that as migrant workers, they are highly disappointed with gaining an income lower than what they initially imagined. The challenges that these migrants face results from Qatar's high cost of living, which impedes their saving enough money before returning to Kenya. The median migrant is a 29-year-old man who has 13 years of schooling; more than a third of male Kenyan immigrants have a university degree, which is unexpected for a migrant from a developing country. On average, these migrants work 9 hours a day, 6 days a week and earn an annualized income of USD 4,681 of which they remit USD 2,472 (over half) to Kenya. More than 70% of Kenyan migrants are unsatisfied with their savings, and 21% are saving less than they were in Kenya. Warfa strongly advocates empowering migrants to manage their expenses and recommends matching migrants to the jobs for which they have trained.
Qatar is invested in the education and future of its society. As such, careful attention is being paid to the trends and attitudes of Qatari citizens towards the education sector. Aljazzi Hamad Fetais of Qatar University discussed the importance of higher education for developing countries, especially in a globalized context where universities are competing to supply the increased demand for education. Fetais is examining the quality of university services delivered to students by the offices of admissions and registration at Qatar University. To measure student satisfaction, she has adapted the SERVQUAL survey method to evaluate specific service attributes in terms of their tangibility, reliability, responsiveness, and empathy towards students.
Meanwhile Ziad Said of the College of the North Atlantic-Qatar, Doha, is studying the impact of Qatari education reform. Said, an industrial chemist by qualification and a university faculty member by profession (former head of applied science at Qatar University), turned to this subject after the decline in student interest in science forced Qatar University to close its program in the sciences. The Arabic Speaking Students' Attitudes toward Science Survey (ASSASS) is a pilot study which seeks to determine whether elementary and high school students will go on to study science at the university level. The results indicate that almost two thirds of the students enjoy science classes at school and almost half are interested in continuing on to science programs at university. According to a World Bank analysis in 2008, however, only 19% of college students are enrolled in science and engineering programs in Qatar. Nevertheless, the high intention factor in this study indicates a positive attitude toward science in Qatari schools and marks an improvement in student interest, which although not immediately evident in terms of student enrollment in science at the university level, reflects one positive outcome of the education reform in Qatar.
Urban space and social practice
The rapid and extensive urbanization of Qatar is propelled by economic strategies that situate its capital city, Doha, as an international center that thrives in a knowledge economy. Ashraf Salama of Qatar University and his team are conducting a study that analyzes the complex factors that produce urban space as well as the complex interdependencies between knowledge and economic and physical urban development in Doha. Because Doha's recent economic renewal influences the evolving structure of its urban environment, Salama is tracking how it has moved from a traditional settlement to a construction boom and then to a city with high global connectivity. The framework he has created addresses the spatial development of Doha over the past 50 years and the conflict that the commercialization of space has produced with its social environment. Salama, however, projects a period in the near future of "differential space" in which proactive participation, innovation, and diversity will be Doha's key characteristics. For a city like Doha to compete globally, it will increasingly rely on the production of a knowledge-intensive economy, one based on international services, international banking, and international education. Salama estimates that urban space will be the driver of this economy, and a key to the future prosperity of the country.
The commercialization of Qatar's urban space has transformed the social practices of its inhabitants. Amani Ahmed discussed the role and symbolic function of Villaggio, Doha's newest and largest shopping mall. She explored the impact of Qatari shopping malls upon Qatari society, culture, and identity. Though supermalls are less frequently visited than was initially anticipated, they accommodate an assortment of social expectations and needs while sustaining a variety of cultural traditions. In Doha, the Villaggio has shifted the patterns and social behaviors of everyday life, changed the daily activities of the population, and created new consumer practices. These changes include new eating habits, altered times of sleep, and new relationships within both the household and neighborhood. Since individuals tend to visit the malls with their families, the mall has partially replaced home visits between families and neighbors. This also means that restaurants and coffee shops are playing a significant role in integrating Qatari families. After some initial resistance, the cinema has also now become a part of mainstream Qatari social life. Ahmed contends that the Villaggio functions as a space for new forms of social practice that are free from the social constraints observable in other spaces of traditional Qatari society.
Understanding the dynamic between urban space and social practice and the changes that ensure is necessary to the preservation and promotion of Qatar's historical and aesthetic traditions. When Sue Underwood was commissioned by the Qatar Museum Authority (QMA) to develop a new museum, she investigated the characteristics of Qatari Arab audiences that might visit such a museum to understand how the spatial and content planning of such a museum should be modified for these audiences. Underwood focused primarily on the constitution of Arab families and on their motivations for visiting museums. To gather this information, she distributed a questionnaire endorsed by the Supreme Education Council and the QMA. This study revealed that respondents across all demographics are highly receptive to visiting the museum with their families. A range of emotional engagement and attitude patterns characterize the experiences of families visiting museums, but family behavior once in museums is primarily directed by their social motivations. For 72% of families surveyed, the ability to socialize was the primary motivational characteristic in their museum experience, a fundamental cultural difference from the West. Museum planners need to be aware of the characteristics of family socialization in Qatar such as the importance given to conversation in interacting with museum exhibits and the need for museum content to engage all members of the family, including children.
Mohammad Hussein Al-Anazi, Awqaf Ministry of Qatar
Darwish Al-Emadi, Qatar University
Fatima Al-Kubaisi, Qatar University
Kelly Knez, Aspetar–Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital
Khalid Mohammed Muftah, Omar Bin al-Khattab, Qatar
Frieda Wiebe, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar
Tara Makarem, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar
Hadeel Ali Radwan, Qatar Petroleum
- In Qatar, civic participation does not necessarily lead to increased democracy.
- AIDS stigmatizes Qatari women living with the disease more than it does men.
- A bioethics research infrastructure will establish Qatar as the world's premiere resource on Islamic bioethics.
Islamic tradition and civil society
Civic engagement and civil society are pillars of democracy in the West, leading many to assume that strengthening civil society inevitably leads to democratization. U.S. foreign policy for example, has promoted civic engagement as a crucial element in the unfolding of democratic political systems in the Arab world. Darwish Al-Emadi of the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute at Qatar University, however, questions this causal relationship after creating and administering the first ever Qatar World Values Survey (QWVS) in December 2010 to over 1,000 Qataris.
The QWVS gauged the level of social tolerance, political interest, appreciation for democracy, confidence in government institutions, and of participation in civil society organizations amongst its Qatari interviewees. The questions were formulated to assess whether people who participate in civic organizations and movements in Qatar exemplify democratic behavior or not. What Al-Emadi found was that in Qatar, civic participation does not necessarily lead citizens towards an increased appreciation for democracy. He concluded that because those most actively engaged in civil society stand the greatest chance of benefiting from existing social and political structures, they have little motivation or desire to change them.
Qatar's citizens are motivated to voluntary collective action and social organization by their shared adherence to identities, practices, and beliefs, and many of these are increasingly shaped by and in reaction to mass media. One recent example of this lies in the high-profile debates to affect the Middle East and Qatari society that resulted from the publication of the Danish cartoons and the boycotts that followed in 2006. Tara Makarem from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Qatar asked whether the background of Qataris who viewed media coverage of these events, or whether the way reports were branded by different news channels affected viewers' perception of bias in the media coverage. If branding does affect perception, Makarem asks, then what are the background attributes that trigger the differences in viewer responses? She and her team conducted an experimental survey consisting of a short video clip and five different modules which assessed the background perceptions of the controversy and evaluated views of Al-Jazeera's and CNN's coverage of the affair. While they found that for the most part religion does drive differences in perception of the events and other background characteristics do not, they also found that perception of bias in news coverage also changed when the group thought they were receiving information from CNN instead of Al Jazeera.
The news media play an important role in constituting the modern subjectivities of Muslims. Presently, research is being conducted on the effect and influence on children in Qatar of religious material disseminated by the internet and satellite television. Mohammad Hussein Al-Anazi from the Awqaf Ministry of Qatar, who studies the importance of religious discourse in all phases of childhood psychological health, cautions that religious leaders, teachers, and all those who publicly invoke religious terminology should pay special care in the messages they deliver to children. These messages should be clear and straightforward, and follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad as well as the many verses in the Qur'an and Hadith regarding the care and attention to be paid to children.
In order to analyze the psychological impact that religious discourse can have on a child, Al-Anazi created a questionnaire for male students in Doha. He visited several psychological health centers and interviewed religious scholars and teachers to determine whether young students enjoyed listening to religious lectures. The study found that the reason most likely to prevent children from attending classes in religion was a lack of clarity and fear about the afterlife. Following modern psychoanalytic theory, Al-Anazi stresses the importance of clear and informed communication in treating these topics with children and the importance of religious discourse in cultivating the self-worth of a child.
The Islamic legal tradition is increasingly being subjected to modern economic structures of power and governance and Islamic scholars therefore preoccupied with ensuring the applicability of traditional jurisprudence to present-day situations. Khalid Mohammed Muftah, of Omar Bin al-Khattab, Qatar contends that Islamic sciences and practices are inherently versatile and in a constant state of renewal, and he argues that this is especially so with the science of jurisprudence, because it is applicable to diverse contexts and locations. This is because the renewal of any tradition begins at the moment it is studied, and it becomes a never-ending process that accompanies current scientific advances and is influenced by other types of social processes. Therefore, in order for Islamic jurisprudence to be relevant to a modern Islamic nation state, its origins and fundamentals need to be recognized, as well as the Islamic modalities that this tradition has instituted and how these are being regenerated in the present. Muftah advocates integrating historical and descriptive methods to understand the inherent regenerative and adaptive capacity of the texts of Islamic law. These approaches can elucidate the contexts, intellectual sources, and the languages of the texts of jurisprudence, as well as the different schools of thought and the epistemologies that they represent. For Hadeel Ali Radwan of Qatar Petroleum, Islam's legal tradition needs to support an Islamic economic system that is able to develop new economic policies that are relevant to a globalized economy and competitive with global institutions. This is especially pertinent, as Islamic law forbids commercial insurance. Radwan explores the possibility of obtaining economic services that are compatible with Islamic law to facilitate the introduction of insurance in Muslim countries as well as their implementation within the laws and regulations of the State of Qatar.
Public health and bioethics
The concern with preventing disease and prolonging the life of its citizens is pushing Qatar to promote public health and information. Qatar not only takes health measures, it also deals with the social stigma brought on by the increased awareness of diseases. For example, three decades into the epidemic, AIDS still carries a destructive stigma. Fatima Al-Kubaisi of Qatar University reported that this stigma is difficult to investigate because of the paucity of research on the topic in Arab society, and especially in Qatar. From her review of the few studies that do exist, she revealed that HIV is seen as a male disease. Scarce consideration is paid to women who are HIV-positive and who make up 30.4% of people living with AIDS in the Arab world. Al-Kubaisi has collected data from 520 students at Qatar University and analyzed the attitudes that continue to mark HIV-positive women in Qatar. Reactions to HIV-positive individuals vary according to the gender of those with the disease. The students interviewed attributed more blame and stigma to women with AIDS than to men and supported imposing harsh limits on the sexual and reproductive rights of women suffering from AIDS. Only 45% approved of women with AIDS getting married (as compared to the 63% for men), 78% believed that women with AIDS should not get married, and 56% advocated that these women be sterilized.
In order for public health intervention to effectively prevent disease and improve the health and quality of life of its citizens, Qatar needs to promote healthy behavior that is compatible with its society. As Qatar shifts from being a Bedouin nomadic society to one that is more urban, there has been a dramatic increase of diabetes and obesity in Qataris. The Qatari culture and physical infrastructure has limited the opportunities for planned and incidental physical activity for women. Kelly Knez, of Aspetar–Qatar Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Hospital contends that to better advocate for health norms that are appropriate to the boundaries and cultures of Qatari society, we must disabuse ourselves of Western assumptions about Qatari women and focus instead on their lived experiences. Knez examines the physical and cultural conditions under which Qatari women do participate in exercise. Using a qualitative analytic approach, she has researched the lived experiences of a group of young and single Qatari women and found that they do indeed exercise. Her results attest to the central role of families in facilitating young women's physical activity, within cultural boundaries that preserve the reputation of the family. Young women must be able to work within and across cultural norms to be physically active.
The health norms of Islamic societies in the Middle East are legislated within and coextensive with a comprehensive tradition of bioethics. The Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University and its Bioethics Research Library in Washington DC and the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service Library in Qatar are collaborating on an ambitious project to create an international information resource on Islamic bioethics. Frieda Wiebe and her team are developing a core collection and database, which will include source material in bioethics and its intersections with Islamic law, Islamic studies, and the modern scientific and medical advances that are being questioned and dealt with from an Arab-Islamic perspective. Their aim is to promote the use of and access to information that will underlie scholarly studies and any research or clinical work being pursued in the field of Islamic bioethics. The material's classification and index supports the needs of scholars, researchers, clinicians, students, and the general public. This project will create a bioethics research infrastructure, establishing Qatar as the world's premiere resource on Islamic bioethics.