Aboutrika's Premier League 'anti-gay' remark divides fans
Former Egyptian footballer Mohamed Aboutrika has drawn both backlash and support after making 'anti-gay' remarks focused on the English Premier League during a live broadcast on Arab sports channel beIN Sports.
Aboutrika, one of the sports station's best-known pundits, criticised the Premier League's Rainbow Laces campaign - where Premier League players wear rainbow-coloured shoelaces in support of the LGBT+ community.
The 43-year-old, who was placed on Egypt's terror list for allegedly supporting and funding the Muslim Brotherhood, referred to homosexuality as a "phenomenon... [that goes] not only against Islam's nature but against human nature" on the Doha-based channel and called for Muslim players to boycott the campaign less than a year before Qatar is due to host the World Cup.
“We need to educate young kids…such a phenomenon [homosexuality] doesn’t fit our faith and religion... people should pay attention and be careful, sports enters every home now,” the ex-footballer said.
Some Twitter users accused him of using beIN to amplify homophobia.
WOW, WOW, WOW! Absolutely disgusting for @beINSPORTS_EN to give a platform to homophobia. #MohamedAboutrika should be ashamed of himself. #RainbowLaces is about making the game inclusive to everyone - not discriminating against fans because of their sexuality! 🏳️🌈 🌈 https://t.co/xsLMFbga61— Liam Fitz (@liamfjournalist) November 30, 2021
Others expressed concern that Aboutrika's comments would affect the Arab LGBT+ community.
@beINSPORTS_EN @premierleague The single worst thing I've ever seen on sports TV. Why have you allowed someone to literally preach religious hate on your channel and your product? What an embarrassment! Think how it will impact those who saw it and may be struggling with feelings https://t.co/fXwjPWfjAn— Kiran Raichura (@KiranRaichura) November 30, 2021
However, many on the platform defended the pundit using the Arabic hashtag #we_support_abotreka, asking why his "freedom of opinion" is being opposed. Polls in the Middle East have consistently showed overwhelming opposition to gay rights across the region, though in varying degrees depending on which country the polls are held.
#we_support_abotreka— Ammar74 (@Ammar7416716503) December 1, 2021
If you defend freedom of action, why do you object to freedom of opinion? Abu Trika support
Many fans, who appeared to be from the Middle East, also stated Aboutrika's that comments were a true reflection of his society and their religious beliefs.
Aboutrika does not represent himself, but rather he is a representative of an entire society and entire peoples who reject these behaviors that are contrary to our human and human nature.#we_support_abotreka— Ahly Insider (@AhlyInsider) December 1, 2021
BeIN was quick to respond to the criticism, stressing its support for people of different backgrounds.
“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,” said a beIN spokesperson in response to the criticism, according to The Guardian.
Nasser Al-Khater, the chief executive of the Qatar 2022 World Cup's organising committee, also emphasised on Tuesday that members of the LGBTQ+ community will be welcome at next year's tournament.
“Everyone is welcome... public display of affection is frowned upon, and that goes across the board... Qatar is a modest country... Other than that, everyone is free to live their life," Al-Khater told CNN.