Foreign Secretary James Cleverly criticised for saying LGBT football fans should 'respect' Qatar – Sky News

  • October 27, 2022

Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar, and the foreign secretary’s comments come after a high-profile LGBT campaigner claimed he was “detained” for staging a protest in the country.
Wednesday 26 October 2022 15:03, UK
The foreign secretary has been accused of being “shockingly tone-deaf” after he urged LGBT football fans to be “respectful” of Qatar if they visit the country for the World Cup.
James Cleverly was asked about on the country’s human rights and LGBT rights record on Wednesday before the start of the football tournament next month.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar and human rights abuses “persist on a significant scale” in the country, according to a pre-tournament report published by Amnesty International last week.
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Speaking to Sky News, Mr Cleverly said: “We have incredibly important partners in the Middle East.
“These are Muslim countries, they have a very different cultural starting point [from] us.
“I think it’s important, when you’re a visitor to a country, that you respect the culture of your host nation.”
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He added: “We do talk to them about our values and why we believe it’s important that people’s rights from all kinds of communities are respected.
“And of course it will be something that we continue to talk to them about.”
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World Cup used to ‘sport-wash atrocious rights records’
Labour’s shadow culture secretary criticised Mr Cleverly’s remarks, describing them as “shockingly tone-deaf”.
Lucy Powell said: “Many fans will feel they can’t attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s record on human, workers, and LGBT+ rights.
“The government should be challenging FIFA on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.”
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Her view was echoed by Layla Moran, a Lib Dem MP, who said the World Cup should be a “celebration” but it is being used by Qatar to “sport-wash their atrocious human rights records”.
“Any UK officials who attend should be using their position to highlight human rights abuses, not endorsing the regime,” she said.
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 Doha, the capital.
The 70-year-old said he was “subjected to interrogation” while detained for 49 minutes, but the Qatari government has said “no arrests were made”.
Mr Tatchell also criticised the foreign secretary and called on the government to use its “public voice to condemn the appalling human rights abuses” committed in the country.
“Unless we all speak out, Qatar will have achieved its goal of sports-washing its appalling reputation during the World Cup. Mr Cleverly has an opportunity to highlight the abuses being carried out 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 abuses by the Qatari state. Going to the World Cup is colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime.”
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