RAINBOW flags could be taken from fans at the World Cup in Qatar to “protect them from being attacked for promoting gay rights”, a tournament security leader has said.
Major General Abdulaziz Abdullah Al Ansari insists that LGBTQ couples would be welcomed and accepted in Qatar for the competition despite same-sex relations criminalised in the conservative Gulf nation.
But Al Ansari is against the overt promotion of LGBTQ freedoms as symbolised by the rainbow flag that Fifa and World Cup organisers had previously said would be welcome across Qatar’s eight stadiums.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Al Ansari said: “If he [a fan] raised the rainbow flag and I took it from him, its not because I really want to, to really insult him, but to protect him.
“Because if its not me, somebody else around him might attack [him] … I cannot guarantee the behavior of the whole people.
“And I will tell him ‘please, no need to really raise that flag at this point’.”
The Qatari is director of the Department of International Cooperation and Chairman of the National Counter-terrorism Committee at the Ministry of Interior.
Al Ansari said he is not telling LBGTQ fans to stay away from Qatar or warning them of facing prosecution.
He added: “You want to demonstrate your view about the [LGBTQ] situation, demonstrate it in a society where it will be accepted.
“We realise that this man got the ticket, comes here to watch the game, not to demonstrate, a political act or something which is in his mind.
FREE BETS AND SIGN UP DEALS – BEST NEW CUSTOMER OFFERS
“Watch the game. That’s good. But don’t really come in and insult the whole society because of this.
“Here we cannot change the laws. You cannot change the religion for 28 days of World Cup.”
Despite his comments certain to cause offence, Al Ansari said he did not think he was being discriminatory.
He said: “We have to be close to the problem before it erupts and gets out of control.
“If somebody attacks you, then I have to get involved and it will be too late.”
This inconsistency and the continued lack of detail in terms of how that will be provided beyond the rhetoric of everyone is welcome is concerning to say the least
Fifa chief social responsibility and education officer Joyce Cook has insisted that rainbow flags, T-shirts will all be welcome in the stadium.
World Cup chief executive Nasser Al-Khater also said “we will respect” Fifa guidelines on allowing rainbow flags.
But Al Ansari’s comments about the confiscation of fans’ rainbow flags will cause confusion.
Chris Paouros is a member of the English Football Association’s inclusion advisory board and trustee with the anti-discrimination group, Kick It Out.
He said “This inconsistency and the continued lack of detail in terms of how that will be provided beyond the rhetoric of everyone is welcome is concerning to say the least.”
The FARE network, which monitors games for discrimination, called for the freedoms of fans to be respected at the World Cup.
FARE executive director Piara Powar said: “The idea that the flag, which is now a recognised universal symbol of diversity and equality, will be removed from people to protect them will not be considered acceptable, and will be seen as a pretext
“I have been to Qatar on numerous occasions and do not expect the local Qatari population or fans visiting for the World Cup to be attacked for wearing the rainbow flag.
“The bigger danger comes from state actions.”