Qatar World Cup ambassador calling homosexuality 'haram' is perfectly in line with Qatar's homophobia

Shaurya Thapa
Shaurya ThapaNov 09, 2022 | 18:47

Qatar World Cup ambassador calling homosexuality 'haram' is perfectly in line with Qatar's homophobia

"They have to accept our rules here" says Khalid Salman while calling gay people mentally challenged (photo-DailyO)

Just last month, queer collectives condemned the organising committee behind the upcoming FIFA World Cup in Qatar as three of the country’s 68 hotels and stays (recommended by FIFA for visitors) outright denied entry of same-sex couples. The CEO of this World Cup, Nasser al-Khater, is also constantly telling press that the event will be an inclusive experience despite homosexuality being illegal in the semi-constitutional monarchy. 

And now, former Qatari international footballer and World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman has stirred more controversy after he got flak for an interview he had with the German TV channel ZDF. Saying gay people have "defect minds (sic)", he added that homosexuality would not be tolerated in his country simply because it is a forbidden activity. 

“They have to accept our rules here. [Homosexuality] is haram [forbidden]. You know what haram means? I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”
- Khalid Salman

Naturally, Salman’s words weren’t received well; the interview joining a long line of controversies plaguing the Qatari World Cup. 

Why is FIFA 2022 so controversial? In terms of labour rights, allegations of abuse and work-related deaths have increased since 2021 with most of these workers hailing from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, and the Philippines. Qatar’s government and the Committee members allege this as Western propaganda to affect the country’s reputation. 

Based on figures provided by the embassies of the aforementioned countries in Qatar, over 6,500 migrant workers have died ever since Qatar was announced as the World Cup host back in 2010. 

Homophobia in Qatar: Gay visitors are also concerned in terms of security as queer folks have been subjected to much violence and abuse in the country. Even Australian footballer Josh Cavallo (who is openly gay) has also been voicing his concerns since last year. 

“At the end of the day the World Cup is in Qatar and one of the greatest achievements as a professional footballer is to play for your country, and to know that this is in a country that doesn’t support gay people and puts us at risk of our own life, that does scare me.”
- Josh Cavallo on The Guardian's Daily News podcast

As for the hotels hosting these guests, the Torch Doha, the Magnum Hotel & Suites Westbay, and the Wyndham Grand Regency have strictly prohibited entry to homosexual visitors. As per Reuters, 20 other hotels have agreed to accommodate such clients but only if they refrain from “publically showing that they were gay”!

What is the status of LGBTQIA+ rights in Qatar? Same-sex couples are not recognised in Qatar’s legal system that largely draws its authority from the traditional Muslim sharia. According to the law, same-sex relations or sodomy between two men is punishable by law with up to three years of sentencing (originally being five years until a 2004 amendment settled for three as the upper limit). 

While there haven’t been any reported cases of death penalty for same-sex relations, its illegal status naturally makes Qatar’s queer population lead their lives in fear. The law can be extreme as death penalty is a court-mandated punishment for extramarital affairs in the country, regardless of gender!

Even non-Muslims or non-Qataris can be subjected to punishment as history tells us. Back in 1998, an American tourist was sentenced to six months in jail and 90 lashes on his back for same-sex activity. Similarly, Polish Instagram influencer King Luxury faced two months in police custody for allegedly being homosexual. 

Human Rights Watch’s recent findings: A recent report by Human Rights Watch from October documents at least “six cases of severe and repeated beatings and five cases of sexual harassment in police custody between 2019 and 2022”.

The report adds that Qatari authorities have arrested people in public places solely on the basis of their gender identity, even unlawfully searching their phones. The forces also mandated transgender women detainees to attend conversion therapy at state-sponsored behavioural healthcare centres. 

None of these cases of detainment were reported officially and the organisation relied on accounts of the victims and witnesses. 

The anti-homosexuality laws are still as strong as ever in Qatar but World Cup CEO Nasser al-Khater is trying his best to avoid all the negative press. According to al-Khater, LGBTQIA+ fans can express themselves in matches with activities like waving the rainbow flag. 

As reported by The Guardian, Qatari police is also instructed to not take action against such fans engaging in public displays of affection (based on secret understandings allegedly brokered between FIFA and Qatar officials). 

What actually goes down at the World Cup and whether some LGBTQIA+ protests would also prop up during this time, that will be seen once the tournament starts from November 20.

Last updated: November 09, 2022 | 18:47
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