Qatar has been under the spotlight ahead of the FIFA 2022 World Cup.
beIN Media Group said it represents and champions all diversity, in a statement that attempted to distance the Qatar-based global sports network from comments made by a pundit earlier this week.
The network faced backlash after former Egypt international captain Mohamed Aboutrika called on footballers to boycott the Rainbow Laces campaign during a live appearance on the channel.
The Premier League’s campaign is designed to promote “equality and diversity” by “show(ing) support for all LGBT+ people in football and beyond,” according to the league’s website. Players show their support by wearing rainbow-coloured laces on the pitch.
The Rainbow Laces campaign was shown across the Arab world last weekend.
The popular pundit said homosexuality “is not only against Muslim nature but against all religions and against human nature,” adding that Muslims “have a role to play” to protect their children from the pro-LGBT+ agenda, which he also described as a dangerous ideology.
“They will tell you it’s a human right but it’s not a human right, in fact it’s against humanity,” he said, claiming that it “humiliates” humans.
In a statement released on Tuesday, beIN 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.”
beIN is believed to have reprimanded and sanctioned Aboutika but has no plans to sack him, according to a report by The Guardian.
Meanwhile, the Premier League, which is broadcast live by beIN across the Middle East and north Africa, also weighed in with a statement.
“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,” it said.
Aboutrika’s criticism comes amid a flood of reports that questions whether the Gulf state will be “safe” for gay football players during the World Cup next year.
Responding to concerns, World Cup Chief Nasser Al Khater said in a CNN interview that Qatar is a welcoming country and “nobody feels threatened here, nobody feels unsafe here.”
“Listen, public display of affection is frowned upon, and that goes across the board – across the board,” the official said, emphasising that this even extends to same sex and married couples.
“Qatar is a modest country. That’s all that needs to be respected. Other than that, everyone is free to live their life.
“They [gay people] will be coming to Qatar as fans of a football tournament. They can do whatever any other human being would do. What I’m saying is Qatar, from a public-display-of-affection factor, is conservative.”
On the other hand, there has been a flood of online support for Aboutrika, with thousands of people taking to social media to express their solidarity with the footballer under the hashtag “we are all Aboutrika”.
Users defended his right to express his views pointing out that the pundit did not incite against anyone and was expressing his views about a social issue.