Qatar official ‘regrets’ that his homophobic comments ‘offended’ – but doesn’t take them back

The Official Emblem of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 is unveiled in Doha's Souq Waqif on the Msheireb.

Qatari World Cup ambassador Khalid Salman has doubled down on his comments about homosexuality ahead of the World Cup, stating that the country “will not change” for the tournament.

Salman came under fire after comments he made in an interview saying that homosexuality is “haram” – forbidden – because it is “damage in the mind”.

The interview, for a documentary broadcast Tuesday (8 November) was abruptly ended by another official after his remarks.

In response to global backlash, Salman took to Twitter to explain his comments.

He claimed they were misrepresented, but doubled down on his anti-LGBTQ+ stance.

“I regret that what I said was taken out of context, because neither our religion nor our nature is to offend or insult,” he said.

“Everyone is welcome in Qatar, but our religion and culture will not change for the championship.”

Salman’s comments have stoked pre-existing fears about the safety of LGBTQ+ attendees at the Qatar World Cup, which begins on 20 November.

Just last month, a report was released by Human Rights Watch detailing the abuses faced by LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.

The Football Association (FA) has reassured LGBTQ+ fans that they will be safe displaying affection at the World Cup – but comments like those from Salman, or the Qatari journalist who equated LGBTQ+ people with “demon worshippers”, do little to comfort.

FA chief executive Mark Bullingham stated that the Qatari authorities have been briefed to be “very tolerant and act in the right way”. Queer World Cup fans say this assurance falls short.

“There is no weight behind this statement because it’s hearsay. That doesn’t help if the worst situation happens and someone gets arrested,” Joe White, co-chair of Pride in Football, previously told PinkNews.

“To a Qatari police officer or to anyone dealing with that, they’re not going to care what the English FA is saying.”

It remains to be seen whether the safety of LGBTQ+ football fans will be guaranteed at the World Cup. Salman’s comments that Qatar’s religion and culture “will not change” seem to contrast the claims made by the FA on increased tolerance.

Some LGBTQ+ affirmative efforts are underway, though. An anti-discrimination campaign involving captains from several European countries see players wear rainbow armbands with “One Love” written on them during the tournament.

It is increasingly clear, however, that displays and promises of solidarity are not nearly enough for LGBTQ+ football fans, and especially not for queer Qataris.

“Frankly, is it enough? Not even close,” Jack Duncan, a LGBTQ+ football fan, previously told PinkNews. “It’s disgusting and it just further highlights the hypocrisy of it all.”