British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly drew criticism on Wednesday for urging LGBTQ+ football fans to be “respectful” of Qatari culture if they visit the country for the World Cup which begins next month.
Cleverly told Sky News that “we have incredibly important partners in the Middle East”, but as they are Muslim countries they have a “very different cultural starting point”. [from] we.”
Homosexuality is currently illegal in Qatar and can be punished with a prison sentence.
The Foreign Minister then said that it was important when visiting a country to “respect the culture of your host country”, adding that he would always bring up the discussion on values and equality of rights for members of all communities in talks with Qatar.
Cleverly added on LBC radio that he expects a ‘safe and exciting World Cup’ provided there is ‘a bit of flexibility and compromise at both ends’.
Lucy Powell, shadow culture secretary of the opposition Labor Party, called the “surprisingly tone-deaf” remarks, adding that many fans will not be attending the tournament due to Qatar’s record on labor rights and LGBTQ+ rights.
The secretary’s remarks came a day after British activist Peter Tatchell said that he was temporarily detained in Doha, after holding a sign that read: “Qatar arrests LGBT people, puts them in jail and subjects them to ‘conversion'”.