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Nadhim Zahawi Says Government Would Not "Condone" Qatar LGBTQ Policies After World Cup Row

Conservative Party Chairman Nadhim Zahawi (Alamy)

3 min read

Conservative Party chairman Nadhim Zahawi has suggested government would not “condone” policies in Qatar, after a Cabinet colleague was described as “tone deaf” for suggesting that LGBTQ fans should be “respectful” of the World Cup host nation, where homosexuality is illegal.

On Wednesday, Foreign Secretary James Cleverly was described as “tone deaf” after he told radio station LBC that LGBTQ fans could show “a little bit of flex” and “compromise” for a “safe and secure” World Cup later this year.  

Today Zahawi told Sky News that "the policies of countries like Qatar are not ours nor do we condone them" when asked if fans were being told to “dial down the gay” ahead of the football tournament which starts next month. 

Zahawi said that the UK uses its relationship with Qatar to “share our values”. 

“What [Cleverly] was saying is the policies of the government of Qatar are not our policies, nor would we condone them,” Zahawi said. 

“In fact, we use our relationship to make sure that every opportunity we get to share our values, to share how we behave in this country, with countries like Qatar and others. 

“They have their own culture and ways and have come to where they are actually from a different journey.”

Yesterday, Cleverly was described by Labour  as “tone deaf” and urged to challenge football authorities.

“They want to make sure that football fans are safe, secure and enjoy themselves,” Cleverly said of Qatar. 

“And they know that means they are going to have to make some compromises in terms of what is an Islamic country with a very different set of cultural norms to our own.” 

He added: "One of the things I would say for football fans is please do be respectful of the host nation.

"They are trying to ensure that people can be themselves and enjoy the football, and I think with a little bit of flex and compromise at both ends, it can be a safe, secure and exciting World Cup."

The government’s foreign travel advice for Qatar noted that “homosexual behaviour” is illegal in Qatar and the website directs users to an advice page that suggests people “find out about local laws and social attitudes” when travelling to any country.  

After Cleverly’s original remarks yesterday, Labour’s shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell said that “sport should be open to all”. 

“Shockingly tone deaf from Cleverly,” she tweeted, adding: “The government should be challenging FIFA on how they’ve put fans in this position, and ensuring the full safety of fans attending, not defending discriminatory values.”

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