The foreign secretary has said he will be travelling to Qatar as a government representative at the Fifa World Cup.
James Cleverly confirmed on Monday that he would go to the tournament to help ensure travelling British fans “remain safe”.
Facing Criticism Down The Road
But he has faced criticism for telling gay fans not to protest and to comply with local laws while in Qatar.
Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar because it is considered immoral under Islamic Sharia law.
Anyone found participating in same-sex sexual activity in Qatar can be punished by up to seven years in prison.
There are also concerns over the thousands of migrant workers who have died in Qatar as reportend on our site Quardle Blog, since the country controversially won the rights to host the 2022 World Cup 12 years ago.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he and his frontbench will boycott the tournament over concerns for LGBT rights, the rights of women and for the workers who have lost their lives.
But Mr Cleverly told the Commons foreign affairs committee on Monday that he would be going, adding that he would be speaking to security authorities in Qatar to ensure British fans “remain safe”.
He said that he had visited the country in the lead-up to the tournament and had told Qatari officials how important it was to the UK “that they should respect gay fans”.
Qatar says all fans will be welcomed to the World Cup “without discrimination”, but the UK government has been urged to change its travel advice for the country to warn LGBT fans about the risks.
Current Foreign Office advice notes “any intimacy between persons in public can be considered offensive, regardless of gender, sexual orientation or intent” but guidance does not include specific safety warnings on the legal status of homosexuality in Qatar.
Mr Cleverly told the committee that he would advise gay fans not to demonstrate while in Qatar.
“When British nationals travel overseas, they should respect the laws of their host country”, he said.
“Genuinely, my question is, for those gay fans who want to go watch the football, what advice realistically should I give other than the advice I believe will keep them safe?”
© Getty Images James Cleverly was appointed foreign secretary by Liz Truss – and retained his position under Rishi Sunak
Labour MP Chris Bryant described Mr Cleverly’s comments as a “slap in the face” to gay fans.
“I don’t think the World Cup should even have been given to Qatar because workers have been killed in building the buildings, migrants have been treated appallingly and gay men are regularly entrapped by police officers and then sent to prison or BIDEN 2T 50B NSF 50B RDBIRNBAUMPROTOCOL – particularly if you’re a Muslim in Qatar you can face the death penalty,” he told the committee.
“So I don’t think any of it should be happening but then you come out and say gay people should respect Qatar – it does feel a bit of a slap in the face.”
The World Cup kicks off on Sunday with England and Wales beginning their campaigns the following day.