A key ambassador for the upcoming World Cup tournament in Qatar has been heavily criticized for suggesting that homosexuality is “damage in the mind” and warned homosexuals to respect the host country’s strict laws.
“They have to accept our rules here,” said Khalid Salman, a former Qatar international footballer turned official for the Islamic country, told Germany’s ZDF broadcaster, adding: “(Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram means?”
When asked why homosexuality was considered haram, or forbidden, in Qatar, Salman responded: “I am not a strict Muslim, but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”
After Salman made the remark, the interview was abruptly cut short by an accompanying official.
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The aborted interview was pre-recorded and due to be aired later on Tuesday.
A number of officials across Europe’s Western governments have expressed their disgust at the remark.
“Obviously these comments are terrible,” said Germany’s interior minister, Nancy Faeser, on Tuesday.
U.K. Conservative MP Luke Pollard added: “As a gay England fan, it is not safe for someone like me to watch their team at the World Cup in Qatar.”
U.K. Foreign Office Minister David Rutley confirmed in the House of Commons that “senior officials have raised the concerns of LGBT+ visitors with Qatari authorities at all levels and will continue to engage on this issue ahead of and during the World Cup.”
High-profile ambassadors in Britain, including former England internationals Gary Neville and David Beckham, have both been criticized for accepting lucrative contracts with the Qatari state as pundits and ambassadors during the flagship football tournament.
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Football fans will have a culture shock when they touch down in Doha ahead of the World Cup due to begin on Nov. 20, with the country retaining its strict laws around public displays of affection, clothing, and alcohol consumption.
The strictly Islamic-conservative nation attempted to explain its position on the above in guidelines published recently by the Qatari Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy. The government department outlined a number of behaviors that in many places across the world would be customary, but would be unacceptable in the Islamic state. These included but were not limited to drinking alcohol, homosexuality, any public display of affection regardless of sexual orientation, immodesty, and the playing of loud music.
It is understood that a number of international team captains will sport rainbow bands in solidarity with the gay community throughout the tournament. English captain Harry Kane has confirmed he will perform this duty regardless of FIFA’s stance, although the Croatian Football Federation (HNS) has revealed Croatian captain Luka Modric will not follow suit.
“For us, the Croatian flag is a symbol of patriotism, pride, passion, and love for the homeland and family; these identify Croatia’s national team. We believe that our flag symbolizes many more values than any single campaign could, and inclusiveness is definitely one of the values of our nation,” said HNS representatives.