“I think with a little flexibility and compromise on both ends, this can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup,” he added.
Critics say Cleverley, a member of the center-right Conservative Party and a supporter of same-sex marriage rights, is essentially asking LGBT fans to hide their identities in a country where homosexuality is a crime. According to the U.S. State Department, Qatari law prohibits men from having consensual sex, and the law does not explicitly prohibit sex between women. Sex between men is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
Rights groups say Qatar continues to abuse LGBT people ahead of World Cup
Former British national footballer Gary Lineker, tweet: “Whatever you do, don’t do anything gay. Is that the news?”
“Don’t be gay at the World Cup,” read Thursday’s cover British tabloid Metro.
Lucy Powell, speaking on sport and culture on behalf of the opposition Labour Party, Call Cleverly’s review “Shockingly tone-deaf.” She urged the government to challenge FIFA “how they put fans in this position” instead of “defending discriminatory values”.
Downing Street dismissed Cleverley’s remarks, saying in a statement that people should not “compromise their identities,” according to the Associated Press.
Amid the criticism, Cleverley reiterated his stance, telling BBC Sky News that “we have very important partners in the Middle East” and that “it is important when you visit a country to respect you The host country’s cultural host country.”
Asked if he planned to play at the World Cup, which runs from Nov. 20 to Dec. 18, Cleverley said he would because “it’s an important international event” and other interlocutors would be there. He said he also had to protect British travellers there.
As recently as last month, Qatar continued to arbitrarily arrest and abuse LGBT people, Human Rights Watch said in a report on Monday.
The Gulf state’s treatment of vulnerable groups such as migrant workers has come under scrutiny since it was granted the right to host the competition. Qatar’s leader, outraged by some of the criticism directed at their country, claimed the attack was the work of “those who cannot accept that an Arab Muslim country will host a tournament like the World Cup.”
Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.