A French newspaper has been accused of racism for a cartoon about the World Cup, which starts later this month.

The crude caricature of Middle Eastern men brandishing weapons was published by French newspaper Le Canard enchainé in its October issue.

Seven bearded men with “Qatar” written across their chests were depicted chasing around a football holding machetes and rocket launchers.

One figure was even drawn with an explosives vest strapped to himself.

The image immediately caused a stir online with several users accusing the publication of “blatant Islamophobia” and “racism”.

“French Le Canard Enchaîné published a despicable cartoon showing its outrageous racism and Islamophobia,” one user said in a Twitter post containing the image.

“It describes (Qatar) as a tyrannical emirate elected by terrorists.”

Hamad Al-Kawari, a Qatari minister of state, shot down the French publication for “resorting to hatred” in the lead-up to the nation’s cornerstone event.

“Even caustic satire is welcome!!!” he tweeted. “But the Canard Enchaîné decided to resort to lies, hatred and grudges to attack Qatar and denigrate it.”

The furore came shortly after a Qatari World Cup ambassador called homosexuality a “damage in the mind” in a German TV interview, sparking criticism in Europe and the United States Tuesday just 12 days before the tournament kicks off.

Qatar will accept gay visitors but “they have to accept our rules”, former international footballer Khalid Salman said in the interview with the ZDF broadcaster that aired Tuesday evening.

Salman also said homosexuality was “haram” — forbidden in Islam — during the interview, which was abruptly broken off after his comments.

Qatar has come under sustained fire over its human rights record ahead of the World Cup, including its treatment of foreign workers and its stance on women’s and LGBTQ rights.

German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser on Tuesday called Salman’s comments “awful”.

“That is also the reason why we are working to hopefully improve things in Qatar in the future,” said Faeser, who is also Germany’s minister for sport.

Meanwhile, captains from a number of leading European countries, including England, France and Germany, have said they will wear armbands in rainbow colours with the message “One Love” during the tournament in an anti-discrimination campaign.

World Cup organisers did not immediately respond when asked for comment by AFP but have previously defended the country’s rights record.

“No matter your race, your religion, your social and sexual orientation, you are most welcome, and Qataris are ready to receive you with the best hospitality that you can imagine,” FIFA secretary-general Fatma Samoura said last week.

But Wenzel Michalski, the head of Human Rights Watch in Germany, on Tuesday warned there was “a big risk” that open displays of homosexuality in Qatar “will be punished — no matter what assurances there are”.

Fans in stadiums across Germany have called for boycotts of the tournament. In Dortmund last weekend, fans in the club’s yellow wall — the all-standing southern stand — unveiled a banner saying “BOYCOTT QATAR 2022”.

with AFP

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