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James Cleverly causes outrage telling LGBT fans to ‘be less queer’ and “respectful” of Qatar

James Cleverly causes outrage by telling LGBT fans going to the World Cup to ‘be less queer’ and “respectful” of Qatar.

The Foreign Secretary urged LGBT supporters to be “respectful of the host nation” during the tournament held in a country in which homosexuality is a crime in order to stay safe there.

Cleverly spoke out after Peter Tatchell, one of Britain’s leading LGBT activists, said he was arrested after staging a one-man protest in Qatar in which he held a banner that read: “Qatar arrests, jails & subjects LGBTs to ‘conversion’. #QatarAntiGay.”

Cleverly told LBC: “I haven’t spoken with the government of Qatar in direct response to Peter Tatchell, but my understanding is that he was questioned, that he was supported by the FCDO’s [Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s] consular team.

“I have spoken to the Qatari authorities in the past about gay football fans going to watch the World Cup and how they will treat our fans and international fans. They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves, and they know that that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.

“One of the things I would say for football fans is, you know, please do be respectful of the host nation. They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup.”

Lucy Powell, the Shadow Culture Secretary, said: “This is shockingly tone deaf from James Cleverly. Sport should be open to all.

“Many fans will feel they can’t attend this tournament to cheer on their team because of Qatar’s record on human, workers, and LGBT+ rights.

“The government should be challenging Fifa on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of all fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.”

England LGBT fan group 3Lionspride posted on Twitter: “With respect, this is an extremely unhelpful intervention that shows a lack of understanding and context. To insinuate that an acceptable and proportionate safety measure is to ‘be less queer’ forces us back into the closet and risks mental health crises.

“For a UK minister to step in and endorse it as a legitimate aim undermines our work and our conversations. *AND* that’s before we even get on to the situation for LGBT+ Qataris who under Penal Code 2004 can be arrested, and under Sharia Law can face the death penalty.

“In conclusion, this statement is contradictory (‘ensuring people can be themselves’ by being less themselves), disregards the voices & experiences of LGBT+ Qataris, speaks over LGBT+ fans & plays into the fractioning of us as either ‘tolerable’ queers or ones who are too much.”

Asked whether he would go to the World Cup after Keir Starmer signalled he would not, Cleverly said: “If I am able to go, I should go because it is a major international event. There’ll be lots of my international interlocutors there and also there’ll be a whole load of Brits overseas.”

Tatchell said in response: “The UK government must use its public voice to condemn the appalling human rights abuses carried out daily by the Qatari regime. Unless we all speak out, Qatar will have achieved its goal of sports washing its appalling reputation during the World Cup. Mr Cleverly has an opportunity to highlight the abuses being carried out by the regime.”

“All fans, not just LGBTs, should boycott the World Cup and use their social media to amplify the shocking human rights abuses by the Qatari state. Going to the World Cup is colluding with a homophobic, sexist and racist regime.”

Robbie de Santos, director of communications and external affairs at Stonewall, said: “Promises made by Qatar to FIFA and the global community that it will use sport to build a society that respects human rights and protects people’s dignity have simply not been delivered on. [Tatchell’s] protest shows that the most basic human rights expected of any State are not being met. LGBTQ+ people in Qatar are criminalised and persecuted for simply existing.

“It’s vital that the international community, including Fifa, make clear that they expect Qatari authorities to respect and uphold freedom of assembly and expression and the rights of all including LGBTQ+ people, both during the World Cup and after.”

This is what social media users said as James Cleverly causes outrage telling LGBT fans to ‘be less queer’ and “respectful” of Qatar…

@GrouchyOldGamer: He seems to be suggesting gay fans pretend to be straight.

@PointlessSword: By flexing and compromise he means shut up and keep hidden. Not surprisingly given his party.

@fzr600dave: I can’t face palm hard enough

@htdc1987: So basically, don’t go

@Well_Jaggy: I would encourage EVERYONE to boycott all matches.

@b00Walk: Be respectful by not being gay?

@hanhan44: What? “If you could please refrain from being gay just for the duration of being in Qatar, it would mean no-one is uncomfortable or disrespected. Apart from you. But you’re not as important as everyone else’s comfort.”

@thegrumpychap: But don’t forget, they are trying to do everything to ensure everyone can be themselves – just don’t be your gay self.

@Mark_doodle: Telling Gay people not to be Gay for a couple of weeks. Great look,@JamesCleverly. Start as you mean to go on, eh.

@DominicLeslie94: James Cleverly throwing the LGBTQ community under the bus. This ‘compassionate’ government thing going well @RishiSunak

@CarolineSmileey: So LGBT are not themselves?

@eca03jeh: Please be respectful in a country with appalling human rights record…. what a guy 🤦

@mrdyerson: “They’re trying to ensure that people can be themselves…” Wow – what a plank!

@ledredman: That is not how global sporting events work. The host nation is obliged to be respectful and accommodating to visiting fans not the other way around. Cleverly is utterly awful.

@guildwars22: I’m sorry did the foreign secretary really just tell football fans to be respectful of a country that kills gay men. He should be at the forefront calling for a boycott.

@gem_abbott: Does “be respectful of the host nation” simply mean “pretend not to be gay”? Grim

@JamesH1963: ‘people can be themselves’? No they can’t, and that’s the point. People will be arrested and punished just for being themselves!!

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