It’s about gay rights: Germany’s Sports Minister Nancy Faeser is on a difficult mission in Qatar. The fact that SPD party friend Sigmar Gabriel defends the Islamic sheikhs doesn’t make their lives any easier either. And what is the Chancellor actually thinking?

Germany’s most prominent Qatar understander is Sigmar Gabriel. His defense of this Islamic state is a tightrope walk, not only because the Federal Minister of the Interior, Nancy Faeser, is in Qatar at the moment and Gabriel’s social democratic party friend is sending a completely different signal. But also because Gabriel’s justifications are at least crooked.

First of all: Qatari money is in Volkswagen AG, Porsche, Siemens, Hapag Lloyd and Deutsche Bank. In which Sigmar Gabriel is a member of the supervisory board. Just in October, Qatar became the largest single shareholder in Essen-based energy giant RWE. On top of that.

Qatar’s connection to Russia is as significant as it is problematic. The sheikhs had their security personnel trained by the Russians for the FIFA World Cup for men. And: Qatar invested around eleven billion US dollars in the Russian energy market, for example in the Rosneft group, whose supervisory board was until recently a social democrat: Gerhard Schröder.

“This makes Qatar one of the main beneficiaries of the gas crisis triggered by Russia’s attack on Ukraine,” says a Qatar report by the independent organization for the Middle East, “mena”.

The Emir of Qatar, Tamin Bin Hamad Al Thani, sees his country as a victim of an unprecedented World Cup campaign. Gabriel finds the “German arrogance towards Qatar (Gabriel writes on Twitter: Qatar) to be a knock…!” What he justifies: “How forgetful are we actually? Homosexuality was punishable in Germany until 1994.”

Now Gabriel could perhaps have added that as late as 1989 his social democratic party rejected a motion by the Greens in the Bundestag to remove paragraph 175 from the penal code. However, Gabriel’s core statement is not correct either.

Because homosexuality was not punishable in Germany until 1994. In two criminal law reforms, the German Bundestag restricted the criminal liability of homosexuality, once in 1969 when a grand coalition governed, and then in 1973 when the Social Democrat Willy Brandt was Federal Chancellor. Since then, homosexuality was no longer punishable, and from then until 1994 “only” gay sex, i.e. male sex with minors, was punishable.

If, like Gabriel, Qatar defends that even Germany needed decades to become a liberal country, then it makes a big difference whether that was a quarter of a century ago or more than half a century. Also, a homosexual has never been whipped in the Federal Republic. But there is an even more important difference between the democratic Federal Republic of Germany and dictatorial Qatar.

What Bernd Reisig, the chairman of the initiative “Love knows no break” points out. Reisig accompanies Faeser to Qatar as a representative of the LGBTI community. He told RND: “In fact, homosexuality in Qatar is still punishable by imprisonment, even the death penalty under Islamic law.”

Another analogy Gabriel made between Qatar and Germany is more than questionable. “We treated guest workers in a crappy way and housed them miserably.” That may be true in Qatar, but certainly not in Germany.

According to the mena report, 15,000 “guest workers” died in Qatar as a result of unworthy working conditions. No historian in Germany has ever claimed that “guest workers” in Germany were crammed together in inhumane housing against their will and, as in Qatar, were prevented from leaving the country. Because it’s not true.

Which doesn’t mean that “guest workers” weren’t discriminated against in Germany. However, they earned the same comparatively high wages as German workers, for example in the mining industry in the Ruhr area. And the children of “guest workers” in Germany have long been ministers or chief physicians. Qatar is more than one constitutional change away from that.

Even Gabriel’s attempt to put discrimination against women in Qatar into perspective hardly withstands a fact check. Gabriel says: “I’m curious what we’ll say about the World Cup in Mexico. In this country about 1000 women are murdered every year and the number of unreported cases is far higher. Let’s see if we’re as harsh on a Christian country as we are on a Muslim one.”

Well, why shouldn’t we? Gabriel’s accusation of religion-based unequal treatment by the “Christian” West is far-fetched. The fate of Mexican women is discussed in Western media just as much as the fate of women in Islamic countries, and: The Mexican government has made specific murders of women, “femicides”, a punishable offense – and sentenced them to 60 years in prison.

Discrimination against women in Qatar, on the other hand, is official government policy, as a recent 94-page report by Human Rights Watch, which is based on extensive surveys, shows.

This discrimination on behalf of the state takes place, for example, in Qatar’s guardianship law, which, for example, denies divorced women the right to bring up their children, even if a court has granted them guardianship.

On March 21, Gabriel tweeted the factual statement that Qatar “does not fund terrorist organizations.” The country is “simply a reliable partner of the West”, although “certainly not a Westminster democracy”.

In addition, this: In 2017, the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council severed their diplomatic relations with Qatar. The reason: continued support for the Muslim Brotherhood and other extremist or terrorist groups. The Qatari foreign minister said unperturbed that his country had the right to do so.

The inner-Arab conflict was formally settled last year. But to this day, according to the “mena” report, Qatar is financing the Muslim Brotherhood and terrorist organizations associated with it, such as Hamas, al Qaeda and its Syrian offshoot, the Al Nusra Front.

Gabriel’s SPD comrade Faeser said that giving Qatar the World Cup was a “totally difficult award” for her. This government-official commitment by the sports minister had consequences. Qatar presented the German ambassador with a note of protest. In it: the “complete rejection and condemnation” of Faeser’s statements.

In May, the Qatari emir asked Chancellor Olaf Scholz that he expected homosexual German football fans “to respect our culture”. This includes the sex ban. Anyone caught having homosexual sex faces draconian penalties.

Bernd Reisig from the “Love knows no break” initiative with Faeser in Qatar says he has now collected 50,000 signatures. One comes from a party friend of Sigmar Gabriel:

Olaf Scholz.