Qatar’s FIFA World Cup ambassador and former footballer Khalid Salman said homosexuality is “a damage in the mind”, in an interview with German broadcaster ZDF on Monday.

The interview, filmed in Doha less than two weeks before the start of the tournament, was immediately interrupted by an official from the World Cup organizing committee.

During the interview, Salman was discussing the issue of illegal homosexuality in Qatar.

Salman told ZDF that being gay was “haram”, which means forbidden under Islamic law. “It’s a pity in the spirit,” Salman said.

As many people are expected to travel to Qatar for the World Cup, “let’s talk about gay people,” Salman said.

“The most important thing is that everyone agrees to come here. But they will have to accept our rules,” he said, adding that he feared the children were learning “something that is not good”.

Salman was a Qatari football player in the 1980s and 1990s.

He participated in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and was selected as one of the host country’s ambassadors for the tournament.

Qatar will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup from November 20 to December 18.

His remarks drew strong criticism from human rights activist Rasha Younes, senior LGBT rights researcher at Human Rights Watch, who called Salman’s remarks “harmful and unacceptable”.

“The Qatari government’s failure to counter this misinformation is having a significant impact on the lives of #LGBT residents of Qatar,” she said on Twitter.

It comes as the awarding of the football tournament to Qatar has been heavily criticized due to the human rights situation in the Gulf state and the treatment of foreign workers.

Earlier this month, football’s world governing body FIFA urged nations participating in the 2022 World Cup to focus on football when the tournament kicks off.

FIFA confirmed to CNN that a letter signed by FIFA President Gianni Infantino and the governing body’s Secretary General Fatma Samoura was sent to 32 nations participating in the global showpiece on Thursday, but no would not disclose the contents.

“If Gianni Infantino wants the world to ‘focus on football’, there is a simple solution: FIFA could finally start tackling serious human rights issues rather than ignoring them,” said Steve Cockburn , responsible for economic and social affairs at Amnesty International. Social justice.

“A first step would be to publicly commit to creating a fund to compensate migrant workers before the tournament begins and to ensure that LGBT people are not discriminated against or harassed. It’s amazing they still haven’t.

“Gianni Infantino is right to say that ‘football does not exist in a vacuum’. Hundreds of thousands of workers have suffered abuses to make this tournament possible and their rights cannot be forgotten or dismissed.

The World Cup countdown during the FIFA Arab Cup in Qatar on December 15, 2021 in Doha.

“They deserve justice and compensation, not empty words, and time is running out.”

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