Foreign Secretary James Cleverly has been accused of being “shockingly tone-deaf” after urging LGBT fans to “respect” the ban on homosexuality in Qatar.
On Wednesday, before the start of the tournament on November 20, there were clever questions about the country’s human rights and LGBT rights.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and human rights abuses “continue on a significant scale” in the country, according to a pre-tournament report published by Amnesty International last week.
Speak with Sky Newsthe foreign minister said: “We have incredibly important partners in the Middle East. These are Muslim countries, they have a very different cultural starting point [from] U.S.
“I think it’s important, when you’re a visitor to a country, that you respect the culture of your host country.”
He added: “We talk to them about our values and why we believe it is important that the rights of people from all types of communities are respected.
“And of course it will be something that we will continue to talk to them about.”
LGBT+ group in England: makes clever comments ‘extremely useless’
Within minutes of Cleverly’s appearance, England’s LGBT+ support group 3LionsPride tweeted that his comments were “extremely useless” to fans traveling to next month’s tournament, adding his suggestion “forces us to come back in the closet”.
They wrote: “With all due respect, this is an extremely useless intervention that shows a lack of understanding and context. Insinuating that an acceptable and proportionate safety measure is to be ‘less queer’ forces us to come back in the closet and risk of mental health crises.
“It’s also not an option for everyone. Some trans and gender diverse fans don’t have the option of being ‘less visibly queer’. We’ve searched for answers, guarantees and details countless times over the years and this PR line of a “ World Cup for all” is not supported by action.
“If a UK minister steps in and endorses it as a legitimate goal, it undermines our work and our conversations. *AND* that’s before we even address the situation for LGBT+ Qataris under the Criminal Code 2004 and under Sharia law can be arrested and receive the death penalty.
In conclusion, this statement is contradictory (“enable people to be themselves” by being less themselves), ignores the voices and experiences of LGBT+ Qataris, speaks of LGBT+ fans, and capitalizes on the separation of us as ‘tolerable’ queers or those who are too many.”
World Cup used to ‘wash horrific rights records’
Lucy Powell, Labour’s shadow culture minister, criticized Mr Cleverly’s comments, describing them as “shockingly tone-deaf”.
She said: “Many fans will feel that they cannot attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s track record on human, labor and LGBT+ rights.
“The government should challenge FIFA on how they put fans in this position and ensure the complete safety of all fans present, and not defend the discriminatory values.”
Government must use its ‘public voice’
The Foreign Secretary’s comments come a day after Peter Tatchell, a British LGBT activist, claimed he was briefly “detained” in Qatar after staging a one-man protest outside a museum in the capital’s Doha.
The 70-year-old said he was questioned while detained for 49 minutes, but the Qatari government has said no arrests have been made.
Tatchell also criticized the Secretary of State and called on the government to use its “public voice to condemn the horrific human rights violations” in the country.
“Unless we all speak out, Qatar will have achieved its goal of ruining its horrendous reputation during the World Cup. Mr Cleverly has an opportunity to highlight the abuses committed by the regime,” he said.
“All fans, not just LGBTs, should boycott the World Cup and use their social media to amplify the shocking human rights violations committed by the Qatari state. Going to the World Cup is colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime.”