British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is facing backlash for suggesting gay football fans should be “respected” in Qatar when they take part in the FIFA World Cup in the Gulf Arab state later this year.
Speaking to LBC Radio on Wednesday, Cleverly said he had spoken to authorities in Qatar – where homosexuality is criminalized – who “want to make sure football fans are safe, secure and comfortable”.
He continued: “And they know that means they’re going to have to make some compromises based on what is an Islamic country, with a very different set of cultural norms than ours.
“If you know one of the things I would say to football fans, please be respectful of the host.
“They [Qatar] They will try – they are trying – so that people can be themselves and enjoy football and I think that with a little flexibility and commitment on both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” added the foreign minister.
A spokesman for the new UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, distanced himself from comment, saying: “We would not expect [LGBTQ fans] to agree who they are and you will know that the UK has very clear rules about this. Qatar’s policies are not those of the UK government and not ones we would accept.’
Lucy Powell, the UK’s main opposition Labor Party Shadow Culture Secretary He scoffed at Cleverly’s commentscalling it “awesome tone” in a tweet.
“Where do you draw on that?” he said inside an interview on LBC Radio. “Two football fans who go as a couple can’t hold hands? Can’t kiss? Can’t they show each other love?”
England’s LGBTQ+ support group 3LionsPride he tweeted: “With respect, this is a very unhelpful intervention that shows a lack of understanding and context.
“Declaring an acceptable and proportionate security measure to be ‘less curious’ puts us back in the closet and puts us at risk of mental health crisis.
“That’s not an option for everyone either. Some trans and gender diverse fans don’t have the option to ‘be less queer’”.
A Human Rights Watch report published on Monday documented cases of Qatari security forces arbitrarily arresting LGBT people and abusing them during detention in September.
A Qatari official told CNN that HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false.”
On Tuesday, British LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell himself protested outside Qatar’s national museum ahead of the World Cup.
Reuters news agency reported that two uniformed officers and three plainclothes officers arrived at the protest site and folded a sign Tatchell was holding and took pictures of his passport and other papers and a man with him.
Police shook Tatchell’s hand and walked away, leaving the activist on the sidewalk, Reuters said. Tatchell shared the video on Twitter, showing a plainclothes man talking to him and removing the sign.
Tatchell told Doha News that he was later questioned by police. He also said that he was afraid of being arrested and physically abused by the police, but that neither happened. Tatchell said the police were polite.
In September, eight European football teams – the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Switzerland and Wales – announced that they will participate in the season-long “OneLove” campaign to promote inclusion and anti-discrimination.
Each of the captains of these eight nations will wear the OneLove armband, featuring a heart with the colors of all backgrounds, throughout the tournament.
The Netherlands FA, which pioneered the campaign, chose colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities; the armband will be used in Qatar, where same-sex relations are a criminal offence.
“It’s an important message that suits football: everyone is equal on the field and it should be like that in all parts of society. We express this message with the OneLove team,” Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk said at the time.
“On behalf of the Dutch team, I have been wearing this band for a long time. It’s great to see that other countries are joining this initiative.”
“I am honored to join my national team captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign,” said England captain Harry Kane.
“As captains we will all compete against each other on the field, but we are against all forms of discrimination.
“This is even more important at a time when division in society is common. Wearing our arms together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching.”