“I think with a little flexibility and compromise on both ends, it could be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” he added.
Critics said Cleverly, a member of the conservative establishment and a supporter of same-sex marriage rights, was asking LGBTQ supporters to hide their identities in a country where homosexuality is a crime. Consensual sex between men is prohibited under Qatari law, which does not expressly prohibit sex between women, according to the US State Department. Sex between men is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Qatar continues to mistreat LGBT people ahead of World Cup, rights group says
Gary Lineker, former British footballer, it was tweeted: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?”
“THE DAY FOR THE MEN AT THE WORLD CUP,” read Thursday’s book the cover of Metro, a British newspaper.
Lucy Powell, who speaks for the opposition Labor Party on sport and culture, called Cleverly’s comments “speak shockingly to the deaf.” He urged the government to challenge FIFA “for the way they have put the fans in this position” instead of “protecting discriminatory values.”
Downing Street rebuked Cleverly’s comments, saying people should not “compromise who they are,” according to the Associated Press.
But amid criticism, Cleverly reiterated his stance, telling British broadcaster Sky News that “we have very important partners in the Middle East” and “it’s important, when you visit a country, that you respect the culture of your host nation.”
When asked if he plans to go to the World Cup, which starts on 20 Nov. to 18 Dec., Cleverly said it will be “an important international event” where other participants will be present. He had to be there to protect British travellers, he said.
Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday that illegal arrests and abuse of LGBTQ people continued in Qatar just last month.
The Gulf state’s treatment of disadvantaged groups such as migrant workers has come under intense scrutiny since being awarded the right to host the tournament. Qatari leaders have reacted to some of the criticism leveled at their country, saying the attack was “by people who cannot accept the idea that an Arab Muslim country could host a tournament like the World Cup.”
Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.