A World Cup ambassador recently described homosexuality as “damage in the mind.”
Former Qatari soccer player Khalid Salman appeared on a German TV program on Monday, speaking to a reporter from ZDF. At one point in their interview, the reporter pressed Salman on Qatar’s criminalization of same-sex sexual relations.
The Middle Eastern country, where Islam is the state religion, is set to host the World Cup soccer tournament beginning November 20. Homosexual acts are punishable by death in Qatar.
Salman responded that homosexuality is “haram,” meaning that it is forbidden under Sharia law.
“But why is it haram?” the reporter asked.
“Because it is damage in the mind,” Salman replied before a member of the World Cup organizing committee abruptly ended the interview.
FIFA’s decision to hold the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has drawn backlash and protests from supporters of LGBTQ rights. The country’s officials and World Cup CEO Nasser Al Khater have said Qatar will guarantee the safety of LGBTQ visitors as well as fans who display rainbow flags at games.
But foreign activists protesting Qatar’s anti-LGBTQ laws have reportedly already been arrested, while the country continues to arrest LGBTQ Qataris.
Meanwhile, the captains of eight World Cup teams—including England, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Wales—have pledged to wear anti-discrimination armbands to highlight the issue of human rights in Qatar.
As far back as 2014, former English women’s football player Casey Stoney, an out lesbian, slammed FIFA for awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, vowing not to attend. In 2018, FIFA launched an investigation after several articles dealing with LGBTQ issues were removed from the international edition of The New York Times in Qatar and other countries.
More recently, even unmarried straight soccer fans began reporting that they had been denied hotel reservations due to the country’s laws against sex outside of marriage.