A soccer team made up of 23 players from Cameroon decided to convert together to Islam at the end of a two-month training camp in Dubai due to the “peace and serenity they felt in Islam,” a local newspaper reported.
According to the United Arab Emirates newspaper The National, the men, who are in their twenties, converted last Thursday two days before returning home to Africa, where they participate in a soccer academy for the poor and orphaned.
Javeed Khateeb, a senior religious adviser at the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, the government agency which appears to have spearheaded the conversion, told The National that the men – some of whom came from Christian backgrounds - were seeking “faith and enlightenment.”
The National reported:
The players and their coaching staff became interested in converting because of the peace and serenity they felt in Islam, and the kindness they received from the Muslim players they trained with, Mr Khateeb said.
“They were very impressed with the way Muslims behaved, but mostly they were impressed by the kindness and respect they received. These are poor young men and they were embraced like brothers.”
The Cameroon team was taken for two full day sessions to the Islamic institute aimed at “alleviating any doubts,” about the faith, Khateeb said.
“We wanted to make sure they had proper understanding of Islam. Many of their questions were about halal and haram, consuming alcohol, and how the prophet Jesus is portrayed in Islam,” the religious advisor added.
Dr. Hamad Al Shaibani, director general of the Islamic Affairs and Charitable Activities Department, told The National, “The department has witnessed a lot of conversion cases of visitors and residents from different nationalities and most of them attribute their conversion to the tolerance and humane values and principles of Islam and the kindness they had from Muslims.”
The government agency organizes programs for non-Muslims in schools, shopping malls, and other places, to expose them to the “moderate message of Islam,” The National reported.
Two of the team players did not wish to convert, but received the training anyway, Khateeb said.
According to a U.S. State Department report, the United Arab Emirates does not recognize or permit conversions from Islam to another religion.