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LGBTQ+ World Cup fans told hand-holding fine – but no kissing

Two people kissing with the World Cup superimposed

Qatar’s ambassador to the UK has said LGBTQ+ couples visiting the country for the World Cup can “hold hands”, but should be mindful of “public displays of affection”.

Speaking to Times Radio on Wednesday (26 October), Fahad bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah said football fans should be “mindful of the norms and cultures of Qatari society” during the World Cup, which starts on 20 November.

“Holding hands is totally permitted in any culture,” he explained, adding that “public displays of affection” would probably be illegal in the UK.

Times Radio host Ayesha Hazarika replied “that’s not true”, and informed him that kissing in public is legal in the UK.

‘Be mindful of Qatari norms and cultures’

Bin Mohammed Al-Attiyah went on to clarify: “I would say holding hands is totally permitted in any culture, even in our culture – come and hold any hands, that’s not a problem at all.

“But there are certain interpretations of what would be a public display of affection, in a particular country, that might be different in another, so I think one has to just be mindful of the norms and cultures of Qatari society in that respect.”

The interview follows months of debate over the World Cup being held in Qatar, a country where it is illegal to be gay, and where abuse against LGBTQ+ people has been reported as recently as October.

Foreign secretary James Cleverly’s suggestion that LGBTQ+ fans should “compromise” and “be respectful” while in Qatar for the World Cup has been criticised by LGBTQ+ activists and politicians alike, with Match of the Day host Gary Lineker saying his suggestion sounded like he was saying “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay”.

Speaking to LBC about the safety of queer football fans in Qatar, Cleverly said fans should show “a little bit of flex and compromise” while in the country for the football tournament.

Tory minister Nadhim Zahawi added that while he believes everyone is “safe to go to the World Cup”, nobody should “have to compromise at all”.

Zahawi told LBC: “I would say you should not compromise on your identity or your sexuality or your sexual preference in any way.”

Labour MP Nadia Whittome tweeted criticising Cleverly’s comments, asking: “What exactly is the respectful middle ground?”

LGBTQ+ football fans have been repeatedly reassured that they will be able to attend the World Cup in Qatar safely, with FIFA stating that it has a “strategic programme of concrete measures” in place for the event.

FIFA told PinkNews in a statement: “Qatar is committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament in a safe and welcoming environment, to building bridges of cultural understanding and to creating an inclusive experience for all participants and attendees, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community.”

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