“We cannot allow you to pray. There is no designated space for prayer.” These shocking phrases are still reverberating in my head.
“I just need a small space to pray. It will only take few minutes,” I reasoned to the flight attendants I approached during the flight. I was on board Qatar Airways’s flight no. QR 161 from Dubai to Copenhagen, with a stopover in Doha, Qatar. To continue my journey, I embarked from Hamad International Airport going to Copenhagen and along the way, the time for me to pray came and this is how I discovered that Qatar Airways banned Muslims from praying.
The two flight attendants I approached were adamant about the policy of not allowing us (me and another passenger) to pray standing, facing the qibla (Mecca direction) even if there was a space where we can pray and the flight was smooth.
The time that I spent discussing with each of them, was more than enough for me to have finished praying fajr. I approached two flight attendants, both insisted that I pray on my seat. I do not know what authority do they have to instruct or impose on me how or where to pray.
Qatar Airways, do guide Muslims by providing where the direction of Makkah is, an essential part of the validity of the Muslim prayer.
The attendants reasoned that for safety reason, praying is not allowed. One crew, introduced herself as the supervisor, mentioned that Qatar Airways banned Muslims from praying standing because there was an incident where a person while praying bumped his head due to sudden turbulence. I doubt the story.
In the hope of finding someone who will understand me and might allow me to pray with ease, I with the other passenger went to the front area and we saw Lin, another flight attendant. After letting her know, our need to pray, I heard the same refusal.
She just repeated what I heard from the previous cabin crew.
I was getting frustrated in the course of the discussion and I asked her if there was any Muslim staff on the flight that we can talk to. I asked for such in the hope, that someone will understand me and the importance of me performing my prayer on time. Unfortunately, there was none.
No Muslim staff in this aircraft. A Muslim company, with no Muslim representation? I don’t get it.
Hopeless for my plea to be allowed to pray — I and the other passenger walked to the back area — without asking permission from anyone and without the two previous attendants, managed to squeeze ourselves in a tiny space and alternately prayed.
Islam & Life is also promoted in the airline’s entertainment screen.
We Muslims, patronize Muslim-owned companies because we expect them to know our needs as Muslims. We expect not to feel alienated when we are in the company or under the care of Muslim companies. We expect that being with Muslim-owned companies we do not need to defend our values, in this scenario, our obligation to pray on time.
I flew with other airlines prior to this, non-Muslim owned airlines, and my need to pray while on board was accommodated. The staff made sure that they addressed my need.
This experience is disappointing, really heart-breaking.
After submitting my complaint/feedback, Qatar Airways, responded with this: Please allow us to share that whilst religion and religious practices are respected at Qatar Airways, passengers are strictly requested not to block emergency exit doors, aisles and galleys due to Safety reasons and to remove all items that may impede the use of these facilities. Qatar Airways considers safety as of utmost importance and appreciates passengers’ understanding and cooperation. Also, we never prohibit our customer to perform their religious practices as long as they are sitting on their seat.