“I think with a bit of flex and compromise on both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” he added.
Critics say Cleverley, a member of the centre-right Conservatives and a supporter of same-sex marriage rights, was essentially asking LGBT fans to hide their identity in a country where homosexuality is a crime. Consensual sex between men is prohibited by Qatari law, which does not explicitly prohibit sex between women, according to the US State Department. Sex between men carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison.
Qatar continues to mistreat LGBT people ahead of World Cup, rights group says
Gary Lineker, former British football player, he tweeted: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything Gay. Is that the message?’
“Don’t be gay at the World Cup,” reads Thursday cover on Metro, a British tabloid.
Lucy Powell, who speaks for the opposition Labor Party on Sport and Culture, summoned Umno’s comments “sound shockingly tone deaf”. She called on the government to challenge FIFA “for how they put the fans in this position” instead of “defending discriminatory values”.
Downing Street rebuked Cleverley’s comments, saying in a statement that people should not “compromise who they are,” according to the Associated Press.
Amid criticism, Cleverley reiterated his stance, telling Britain’s Sky News that “we have incredibly important partners in the Middle East” and that “it’s important, when you’re a visitor to a country, to respect the culture of your host nation.”
When asked if he planned to attend the World Cup, which runs from November 20 to December 18, Cleverley said he would because “it’s an important international event” where the other players will be. He also had to be there to protect British passengers, he said.
Human Rights Watch said in a report Monday that arbitrary arrests and abuse of LGBT people continued in Qatar as recently as last month.
The Gulf country’s treatment of underprivileged groups such as migrant workers has come under scrutiny since it was awarded the rights to host the tournament. Qatari leaders bristled at some of the criticism leveled at their country, claiming the attacks were from “people who cannot accept the idea of an Arab Muslim country hosting a tournament like the World Cup”.
Andrew Yeong contributed to this report.