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Qatar World Cup ambassador describes being gay as ‘damage in the mind’

2022 Qatar World Cup logo projected onto a building
The 2022 Qatar World Cup logo is projected onto the side of the opera house in Algiers.
(Toufik Doudou / Associated Press)
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An ambassador for the World Cup in Qatar has described homosexuality as a “damage in the mind” in an interview just two weeks before the opening of the global soccer tournament in the conservative Gulf state, highlighting concerns about its treatment of LGBTQ people.

Former Qatari national player Khalid Salman told German public broadcaster ZDF in an interview that being gay is “haram” — “forbidden,” in Arabic — and that he has a problem with children seeing gay people.

Excerpts of the television interview were shown Monday night on ZDF’s news program Heute Journal. The full interview, which is part of a documentary, will be shown Tuesday night on ZDF.

Germany’s interior minister condemned Salman’s remarks.

“Of course such comments are terrible, and that is the reason why we are working on things in Qatar hopefully improving,” Nancy Faeser said Tuesday.

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About 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar for the month-long tournament, which has faced criticism and skepticism ever since the gas-rich emirate was selected as host by FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, in December 2010. Concerns about the conservative country’s treatment of LGBTQ people living in the country as well as LGBTQ visitors attending the World Cup have also been expressed for a long time.

In the interview, Salman said homosexuality “is a spiritual harm.”

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“During the World Cup, many things will come here to the country. Let’s talk about gays,” Salman said in English, which is dubbed into German in the TV segment.

“The most important thing is, everybody will accept that they come here. But they will have to accept our rules,” he added.

The interview was cut short by a press officer of the World Cup organizing committee after Salman expressed his views on homosexuality, ZDF reported.

Faeser, who is also responsible for sports, said when she visited Qatar a week ago that the country’s prime minister had given her a “safety guarantee” for fans “no matter where they come from, whom they love and what they believe in.”

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Faeser said there has been no change to that stance from the prime minister, who is also Qatar’s interior minister. She plans to go ahead with a trip to attend Germany’s opening World Cup match against Japan.

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Last month, Germany’s ambassador to Qatar was summoned by the government there after Faeser appeared to criticize the country for its human rights record.

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