One of Britain’s top government officials wants LGBTQ soccer fans to keep all of that gay stuff to themselves if they visit Qatar for the upcoming men’s World Cup.
Foreign Secretary James Cleverly suggested Wednesday in a radio interview that gay fans should resist public displays of affection in the Gulf country.
“Cleverly, speaking on the talk radio station LBC, said Qatar was making ‘some compromises in terms of what is, you know, an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.’ In turn, he said, fans should ‘be respectful of the host nation — they will, they are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football.’”
Labeling Qatar’s brutal treatment of LGBTQ people as a “very different set of cultural norms” is quite the understatement. It is still illegal to be gay in Qatar, and homosexuality can lead to imprisonment or even death.
Just this week, the Human Rights Watch published a new report documenting Qatari arrests and abuses of gay people.
Nasser Mohamed, a Qatari-born physician now living in San Francisco, recently sounded the alarm in an essay for Outsports about the dismal state of LGBTQ rights in his home country.
“Some of my friends have told me stories about online chat rooms and how undercover cops are arresting men trying to meet other men in a romantic setting,” he writes. “I also heard about lashing and prison sentences.”
Yet, Cleverly says “with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.”
How exactly does Cleverly think that will work?
“Gays, stop your hand-holding. Police, stop your lashings and prison sentences.”
Cleverly faced immediate pushback for his plea for appeasement, with Gary Lineker, a British former national soccer player, putting it best: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?,” he tweeted.
That seems to be the case. Downing Street also rebuked Cleverly’s remarks, saying nobody “should have to compromise who they are.”
The criticism hasn’t caused Cleverly to change his stance.
“We have incredibly important partners in the Middle East,” he told Sky News Wednesday, per the Post. “It’s important, when you’re a visitor to a country, that you respect the culture of your host nation.”
The World Cup begins Nov. 20.