'Don't compromise on your identity', minister tells gay football fans heading to the World Cup amid 'respect' Qatar row

27 October 2022, 08:49 | Updated: 27 October 2022, 13:39

Zahawi: No-one should have to compromise on their sexuality

By Daisy Stephens

Tory chairman Nadhim Zahawi has urged gay football fans travelling to the World Cup not to 'compromise on their identity' just one day after Foreign Secretary James Cleverly advised football fans to be 'respectful' of Qatar despite its laws on homosexuality.

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Speaking on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Mr Cleverly said yesterday that both sides needed to "compromise" and be "respectful of the host nation".

His comments sparked fury, with former footballer Gary Lineker interpreting them as "don't do anything gay" and shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell labelling them "shockingly tone deaf".

And they were followed by Australia's football team becoming the first to condemn the Middle East state over its LGBT and migrant rights record, saying in a collective statement that the "suffering" caused by the tournament on labourers "cannot be ignored".

Read more: Gary Lineker leads fury after 'tone deaf' James Cleverly tells LGBT fans to 'compromise' at Qatar World Cup

Read more: 'I've got real work to do': Foreign Sec makes cutting jibe at Keir Starmer over World Cup boycott and says he'll attend

On Thursday Nick put Mr Cleverly's comments to Mr Zahawi - but the Tory chairman said no one should "compromise"on their identity and insisted gay football fans were safe.

Nick said: "Two of your constituents in Stratford-upon-Avon contact you.

"They're two gay men or they're two lesbian women, and they say - Mr Zahawi, are we safe to go to the football world cup and hold hands?

"What would your advice be?"

Ben Kentish schools this caller who defends James Cleverly's comments on Qatar

Mr Zahawi said: "I would say - you should not compromise on your identity or your sexuality or your sexual preference in any way.

"Of course you are safe to go to the World Cup."

Read more: 'Shame on FIFA': Peter Tatchell hits out at World Cup organisers in Qatar protests

Read more: Keir Starmer will refuse to go to the World Cup in Qatar because of human rights - even if England get to the final

He also said the UK government were in constant communication with the Qatari government about the issue.

"No one should have to compromise at all in my view," he went on.

"I was equalities minister as part of my work in the Cabinet Office up until last week.

"I'm very proud of what we've done in the UK.

Shelagh Fogarty caller says he wouldn't go to Qatar as a gay man

"We use every opportunity when we engage with the Qatari government to share with them how we do things over here, they've had a different historic journey of course.

"Football is a celebration, a celebration of diversity, and I'm sure the Qataris completely understand that as well."

When asked if Mr Cleverly had got it "totally wrong", Mr Zahawi said: "I didn't listen to James' interview with you yesterday other than to say - I know James Cleverly, I've worked with James Cleverly and I know he would share with me what I'm saying to you... no one should need to compromise on their sexuality or their preference whatsoever."

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It has been reported that 6,500 migrant construction workers have died whilst building of the 2022 World Cup stadium in Qatar, drawing attention to the country's problem with labour and workers rights.

In the Arabian country it is illegal to promote or engage in homosexuality and therefore has been scrutinised for its treatment of the LGBTQI+ community as well as women and migrant workers.

On Tuesday, Qatari officials arrested British campaigner Peter Tatchell as he staged a one-man protest about the country's treatment of LGBTQI+ people.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer saiid his party would be boycotting the event as a result - but Mr Cleverly told Nick he would attend.

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