Kick It Out has accused beIN Sports of amplifying homophobia and questioned whether members of the LGBTQ+ community should travel to Qatar for the World Cup after a former Egypt footballer said homosexuality was “against human nature” during a punditry appearance for the Qatari broadcaster.
Mohamed Aboutrika, one of the station’s best-known pundits, sparked fury after urging Muslim players to boycott the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign, which is designed to support the LGBTQ+ community, and saying that homosexuality is not “compatible” with Islam. The 43-year-old added that Muslim people “have a role to play” in eliminating homosexuality and described it as a “dangerous ideology that is becoming nasty”.
Aboutrika’s comments were made live on beIN, which broadcasts live Premier League football in the Middle East and north Africa, less than a year before Qatar is due to host the World Cup. The country has been criticised by human rights groups for its treatment of the LGBTQ+ community.
Kick It Out, football’s anti-discrimination charity, criticised Aboutrika and hit out at beIN for allowing hate speech on its network.
“Kick It Out condemns the incredibly homophobic comments of Mohamed Aboutrika, and our support and solidarity goes out to any members of the LGBTQ+ community that have been affected by them,” Chris Paouros, a Kick It Out trustee, ha detto al Guardian.
“We are extremely disappointed and very concerned that beIN Sports decided it was appropriate to broadcast such hate speech in full on their network, and urge them to issue an apology to the LGBTQ+ community for doing so. As a Qatari broadcaster, beIN’s willingness to amplify homophobia in this way brings further into focus the safety of LGBTQ+ fans and players who may travel to Qatar for the World Cup, not to mention the freedoms of LGBTQ+ Qataris.
“These are focuses of Kick It Out’s newly formed Qatar 2022 Working Group, which alongside the likes of Stonewall, Football V Homophobia and Inside Inclusion will hope to drive inclusion and security for fans at next year’s tournament, as well as creating a lasting impact for the rights LGBTQ+ people in Qatar, and on the decision-making process for future tournaments.”
Fare, an anti-discrimination network in football, questioned why Aboutrika’s comments were not challenged during the programme. “So disappointing to see Egyptian legend Mohamed Aboutrika dismissing the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign and using theological positions to do so,” the organisation tweeted. “No challenge from beIN Sports. He was given space to deny the rights and existence of a community.”
It is understood beIn has reprimanded and sanctioned Abourtika for expressing views that it feels run contrary to its standpoint but has no plans to sack him. The broadcaster showed the Rainbow Laces campaign across the Arab world last weekend and will continue to do so across all its markets. A spokesperson said: “As a global media group we represent, champion and support people, causes and interests of every single background, language and cultural heritage across 43 hugely diverse countries, as we show every day.”
The Rainbow Laces campaign is designed to promote “equality and diversity” by “showing support for all LGBT+ people in football and beyond”, according to the league’s website. Players back the initiative by wearing rainbow-coloured laces.
The Premier League has contacted beIN about Aboutrika’s comments. A spokesperson for the league said: “We wholeheartedly disagree with the pundit’s views. The Premier League and its clubs are committed to supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion and making clear football is for everyone.”
The chief executive of Qatar 2022 said on Tuesday that members of the LGBTQ+ community would be welcome at the World Cup. “Everyone is welcome,” Nasser al-Khater told CNN. “Listen, public display of affection is frowned upon, and that goes across the board – across the board. Qatar is a modest country. That’s all that needs to be respected. Other than that, everyone is free to live their life.”