Germany condemns Qatar World Cup ambassador who says homosexuality is 'damage in the mind'

The German government has condemned comments by a Qatar World Cup ambassador who described homosexuality as "damage in the mind" in an interview with German television.

Khalid Salman, a former Qatari international footballer and one of several official representatives of the forthcoming tournament, said gay people coming to the country would have to "accept our rules".

Germany's interior minister, who is also in charge of sport, called the statement "terrible".

In the interview with ZDF -- filmed in Doha for a documentary -- Salman addressed the issue of homosexuality, which is illegal in the conservative Muslim country.

"During the World Cup, many things will come here to the country. Let’s talk about gays," the World Cup ambassador said in English, which is simultaneously dubbed into German in the TV segment.

“The most important thing is, everybody will accept that they come here. But they will have to accept our rules.”

"(Homosexuality) is haram. You know what haram (forbidden in Arabic) means?," he said.

When asked why it was haram, Salman said: "I am not a strict Muslim but why is it haram? Because it is damage in the mind."

The ambassador, who is responsible for promoting the World Cup, also said that he has a problem with children seeing homosexuality.

The interview was cut short by a media officer of the World Cup organising committee after Khalid Salman's comments, ZDF reported.

An excerpt was shown on the channel's news programme Heute Journal. The full interview was due to be shown later on Tuesday.

Germany's Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who visited Qatar last week, told a news conference in Berlin that the German government had held talks with Qatar to ensure the safety of German fans during the World Cup.

"On the one hand, it's about people who love other people of the same sex and want to show it. But it's also about protection against racist attacks. It's also about protecting people from attacks and preventing anti-Semitism," she said.

"That's why this security guarantee was so important to me and it was given to me by the Prime Minister and Interior Minister. I don't have any new indications from him now that this should have changed."

Euronews has contacted the Qatar 2022 organising committee and the Qatari government for comment.

Qatar was 'a mistake', says ex-FIFA boss Blatter

Sepp Blatter, the former president of FIFA when Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup hosting rights in 2010, has told Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger that the decision was "a mistake", adding that "the choice was bad".

The 86-year-old said FIFA amended the criteria it used to select host countries in 2012, in light of concerns over the working conditions at tournament-related construction sites in Qatar.

"Since then, social considerations and human rights are taken into account," he said.

The move to hold the tournament in the small Gulf state has come under intense pressure in recent years over allegations of corruption and its human rights record -- including its treatment of foreign workers -- and restrictive social laws.

Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, has also been embroiled in accusations of corruption during his tenure. He was cleared of fraud by a Swiss court in June. The prosecutors have appealed the ruling.

A few dozen people protested in front of the FIFA Museum in Zurich on Tuesday to press for the rights of the LGBT+ community ahead of the World Cup.

Organisers the All Out group said the demonstration aimed to "make sure FIFA and Qatar know the world is watching and that citizens around the world expect action".

All Out wants FIFA to pressure Qatar to decriminalise same-sex relations and protect the LGBT+ community, and says FIFA had not publicly committed to concrete steps that would ensure the safety of LGBT+ football fans, gay players, or the local LGBT+ community.

"FIFA is confident that all necessary measures will be in place for LGBTIQ+ fans and allies to enjoy the tournament in a welcoming and safe environment, just as for everyone else," a spokesperson for football's world governing body responded in emailed comments to Reuters.

"Qatar as a host country is fully committed to ensuring that everyone will be able to enjoy the tournament in a safe and welcoming environment, including members of the LGBTIQ+ community," the spokesperson added, saying FIFA's position was that discrimination of any kind on account of sexual orientation was strictly prohibited.

Qatar's 'no discrimination' assurances

Up to 1.2 million international visitors are expected in Qatar for the tournament, which kicks off on November 20. Concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event, especially LGBT+ people and women, have been expressed for a long time.

Organisers have repeatedly said everyone will be welcome in Qatar, the first Middle Eastern country to host the World Cup.

Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani gave an assurance on 21 September that all fans would be welcomed "without discrimination" during the tournament in his country, in an apparent attempt to reassure the country's LGBT+ visitors.

Last month the emir described criticism over his country's hosting of the World Cup as "slander", saying Qatar had been "the target of an unprecedented campaign that no other host country has suffered".

Some footballers have raised concerns over the rights of fans travelling to the event. Several European team captains -- including those from England, France and Germany -- say they will wear rainbow armbands with the message "One Love" as part of an anti-discrimination campaign.

Last week FIFA's top officials urged the 32 teams preparing for the most political World Cup in the modern era to focus on the game in Qatar and avoid handing out lessons in morality.

Nancy Faeser, Germany's interior minister, says she plans to go ahead with a trip to Germany’s opening World Cup match against Japan.

Last month, Germany's ambassador to Qatar was summoned by the government there after Faeser appeared to criticise the country for its human rights record.