A Qatar World Cup ambassador has told German television broadcaster ZDF that homosexuality was “damage in the mind,” as the Gulf state prepares to host the global tournament in less than two weeks.
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In an interview filmed in Doha and to be screened later on Tuesday, former Qatari international Khalid Salman addressed the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative Muslim country.
Some soccer players have raised concerns over the rights of fans traveling to the event, especially LGBT+ individuals and women, whom rights groups say Qatari laws discriminate against.
The country expects more than one million visitors for the World Cup.
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“They have to accept our rules here,” Salman said, in an excerpt of the interview. “(Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram (forbidden) means?,” he said.
When asked why it was haram, Salman said: “I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind.”
The interview was then immediately stopped by an accompanying official. Qatar’s World Cup organizers, when contacted by Reuters, declined to comment.
World soccer’s ruling body FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for a comment.
“Obviously these comments are terrible,” Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser, who visited Qatar a week ago, said on Tuesday.
Faeser said she had received security guarantees from the local interior minister and prime minister and that this applied to the protection of homosexual fans as well as against possible racist or anti-Semitic attacks.
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“I have no new indications from him (Qatari interior minister) now that anything should have changed in this regard,” Faeser told reporters.
The comments also prompted a protest Tuesday in front of the FIFA Museum in Zurich.
Organizers have repeatedly said everyone was welcome in Qatar during the World Cup.
Qatar is the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup but the small nation has come under intense pressure in recent years for its treatment of foreign workers and restrictive social laws.
The country’s human rights record has led to calls for teams and officials to boycott the Nov. 20-Dec. 18 tournament.
— Reporting by Karolos Grohmann, Additional reporting by Andrew Mills in Doha and Paul Carrel in Berlin; Editing by Peter Rutherford and Ed Osmond
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