December 21, 2021
Authorities in Qatar have seized a line of what they called ‘un-Islamic’ children’s toys that feature rainbow patterns similar to LGBT flags.
The small oil-rich peninsular will host next year’s football World Cup, and despite repeated assertions by authorities that anyone will be welcome to visit for the tournament, homosexuality remains illegal in the conservative Muslim emirate.
The line of rainbow coloured children’s toys were confiscated from stores, with officials saying they were contrary to ‘Islamic values’.
The emirate’s commerce and industry ministry did not spell out its objection to the rainbow colours, but some of the toys bore a colour scheme very similar to the LGBTQ flag.
The ministry of commerce and industry ‘carried out inspection campaigns on several retail outlets in different regions across Qatar’, it said on Twitter.
‘The campaigns resulted in the seizure and release of several violations, including the confiscation of children’s toys bearing slogans that go against Islamic values.’
The tweet was accompanied by a pictures of rubber stress balls and other toys in rainbow colours.
‘The ministry urges all citizens and residents to report any product bearing logos or designs contrary to our traditions,’ it said in a separate statement on the official QNA news agency.
There was no immediate response from Qatari authorities to AFP new agency’s requests to elaborate on the reasons for the seizures.
Qatar’s rights record has been under the spotlight ever since it was chosen as host of the 2022 World Cup in 2010.
In November, the English Football Association assured LGBTQ+ fans that they would be welcome in the country for the World Cup, with Qatar appearing to soften its anti-LGBTQ+ stance for the tournament, saying rainbow flags would be permitted.
But there are fears over possible repercussions for LGBT+ Qataris – who may display such flags during the tournament – once the World Cup has ended.
Amnesty International has accused the Football Association of failing to engage with it over human rights abuses in Qatar – unlike associations in other countries – with a spokesman saying they had not spoken to the FA since 2020.
But the FA said last month it was ‘categorically incorrect’ to claim there has been no dialogue since March 2020, adding: ‘We are in dialogue with Amnesty and also with FIFA, UEFA, other member associations and the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.’
The country’s attitude towards LGBTQ+ rights were in the spotlight earlier in December when Football pundit Mohamed Aboutrika, a former Egypt international, launched the offensive tirade on beIN Sports – a channel owned and run by Qatar.
He also criticised the Premier League’s Rainbow Laces campaign supporting the LGBTQ+ community, calling for Muslim players to boycott it.
Aboutrika said ‘such a phenomenon does not fit our faith and it does not fit our religion’, adding it is ‘not only against Islam’s nature, but it’s against human nature’.
He added: ‘They will tell you that homosexuality is human rights. No, it is not human rights – in fact it’s against humanity.’ He was not challenged on his views and will not be disciplined nor sacked.
Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a friend of England legend David Beckham, is the chairman of beIN Sports. The channel, which is effectively run by the Qatari state, also has the exclusive rights to the World Cup next year.
BeIN refused to criticise Aboutrika over his comments, but said: ‘As a global media group, we represent and support people, causes and interests of every background, language and cultural heritage.’
David Beckham has also been criticised by human rights groups after signing a £10million-plus deal to be the Gulf State’s ambassador.
The conditions of the tens of thousands of migrant labourers building the tournament’s infrastructure have been a particular focus alongside LGBTQ+ rights.
A conservative estimate of 6,500 migrant workers – mostly from South Asia – have died building the tournament’s stadiums in sweltering conditions.
In March, Amnesty International wrote to FIFA’s president Gianni Infantino urging the football’s governing body to increase pressure on Qatar over its human rights record.