British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is receiving backlash for suggesting that gay football fans should be ‘respectful’ in Qatar when attending the FIFA World Cup in the Arab state of Gulf later this year.
Speaking to LBC radio on Wednesday, Cleverly said he had spoken with authorities in Qatar – where homosexuality is criminalized – who “want to make sure football fans are safe and having fun “.
He continued, “And they know that means they’re going to have to compromise on what an Islamic country is, with a very different set of cultural norms from ours.
“One of the things I would say to football fans is, you know, ‘Please be respectful of the host country.’
“They [Qatar] will try – they try – to make sure people can be themselves and enjoy football and I think with a bit of flexibility and compromise on both sides it can be a safe, secure World Cup and exciting,” added the Foreign Secretary. .
The spokesman for the new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak distanced himself from the comments, saying: “We would not expect [LGBTQ fans] to compromise who they are and you will know that the UK has very clear rules about this. Qatar’s policies are not those of the British government and not those we would endorse. »
Lucy Powell, Shadow Culture Secretary, UK’s main opposition Labor Party slammed Cleverly’s commentscalling him “surprisingly deaf” in a tweet.
“Where do you draw the line on that?” she said in an interview with LBC Radio. “Two football fans dating can’t hold hands? Can’t kiss? Can’t show love to each other?”
3LionsPride England LGBTQ+ Supporters Group tweeted“With respect, this is an extremely unnecessary intervention that shows a lack of understanding and context.
“Insinuating that an acceptable and proportionate safety measure is to be ‘less queer’ forces us into the closet and risks mental health crises.
“It’s also not an option for everyone. Some trans and gender-diverse fans don’t have the option to “be less visibly gay.”
A Human Rights Watch report released on Monday documented cases as recent as September where Qatari security forces arbitrarily arrested LGBT people and subjected them to ill-treatment in detention.
A Qatari official told CNN that HRW’s allegations “contain information that is categorically and unequivocally false.”
On Tuesday, British LGBTQ activist Peter Tatchell protested alone outside Qatar’s National Museum ahead of the World Cup.
Reuters news agency reported that two uniformed officers and three plainclothes officials arrived at the scene of the protest and folded up a sign Tatchell was holding and took photos of his passport and other papers as well as those of a man he was with.
Police shook hands with Tatchell and left, leaving the activist on the sidewalk, Reuters reported. Tatchell shared a video on Twitter showing a man in civilian clothes talking to him and removing his sign.
Tatchell told Doha News later that the police questioned him. He also said he feared being detained and physically assaulted by the police, but nothing 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 would take part in a “OneLove ” of a season to promote inclusion and fight against discrimination.
Each captain of these eight nations will wear a distinctive OneLove armband – which features a heart containing colors from all walks of life – during the tournament.
The Dutch FA, which is spearheading the campaign, chose the colors to represent all heritages, backgrounds, genders and sexual identities; the armband will be worn in Qatar where same-sex relations are a criminal offence.
“It’s an important message that fits football: on the pitch, everyone is equal and that should be the case everywhere in society. With the OneLove group, we express this message,” said Virgil van Dijk, the captain of the Netherlands at the time.
“On behalf of the Dutch team, I’ve been wearing this band for quite a while now. It’s good to see other countries joining this initiative.
“I am honored to join my fellow national team captains in supporting the important OneLove campaign,” England captain Harry Kane said.
“As captains, we may all be competing against each other on the pitch, but we are united against all forms of discrimination.
“It is all the more relevant at a time when division is common in society. Wearing the armband together on behalf of our teams will send a clear message when the world is watching. »