Sexist comments Ben Sulayem made in 2001 “do not reflect his current beliefs”

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The FIA says sexist comments made by Mohammed Ben Sulayem 20 years before he became president of the governing body do not reflect his current beliefs.

Ben Sulayem made the comments on his former official website, They came to attention today when they were republished by The Times.

An archived copy of the website from May 2002 shows that the then-rally driver and multiple Middle East rally champion made a disparaging comment about women on a page entitled ‘likes & dislikes’.

On the page, Ben Sulayem says that he does not like talking about money and “nor do I like women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not in truth”.

When contacted by RaceFans, the FIA said that the comment was not representative of Ben Sulayem’s views in his role as head of the governing body.

“The remarks in this archived website from 2001 do not reflect the president’s beliefs,” the FIA spokesperson said.

“He has a strong record on promoting women and equality in sport, which he is happy to be judged on. It was a central part of his manifesto and actions taken this year and the many years he served as vice president for sport prove this.”

Ben Sulayem was elected as president of the FIA by its members in December 2021, the week following the controversial Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. He replaced outgoing Jean Todt and has been for more active than his predecessor in matters involving Formula 1, courting some controversy in recent months.

After attracting criticism last June for comments made regarding Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton advocating for social and environmental causes, the FIA president stressed in that he was committed to “diversity and inclusion” within the governing body.

“As a driver, I have always believed in sport as a catalyst of progress in society,” Ben Sulayem stated in a post on social media last year. “That is why promoting sustainability, diversity and inclusion is a key priority of my mandate. In the same way, I value the commitment of all drivers and champions for a better future.”

Under Ben Sulayem, the FIA appointed its first female CEO, Natalie Robyn, in the governing body’s history. Ben Sulayem also fulfilled a manifesto pledge to create the FIA’s first equality, diversity and inclusion advisor when Tanya Kutsenko was appointed last year.

Ben Sulayem’s term as FIA president will run until 2025, where he will stand for election for a second term unless no one in the organisation stands against him.

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Will Wood
Will has been a RaceFans contributor since 2012 during which time he has covered F1 test sessions, launch events and interviewed drivers. He mainly...

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43 comments on “Sexist comments Ben Sulayem made in 2001 “do not reflect his current beliefs””

  1. Well at least he has not done anything since but still that went over the line

  2. I’m no fan of his, but this trawling and finding dodgy comments from two decades ago is ridiculous.

    1. János Henkelmann
      27th January 2023, 23:32

      It’s ridiculous and dangerous!

      1. Offense archaeologists. Also people need to realise offense can’t be given only taken.

    2. I’m fine with people looking it up and asking about it, he’s a public figure and the remark was public when made after all @banbrorace

      But I see little reason to give it more attention than it deserves – he made clear that was 2 decades ago and not something he would say now. Surely everyone knows that society has changed a lot since then and most of us have changed at least some views since then too.

    3. He was too verbal about expanding grid and f1buissness. That’s only dirt you could find?This is pathetic.

    4. I so agree. People say silly things and times and language that yesterday was thought ok is today not seen as good. He has acknowledged it and we move on. It is a strange world we live in when what someone said 2 decades ago is now to be held against them.

    5. I’m cool with it, but his whole culture he grew up in and his religion is sexist. I don’t know why they don’t go after that instead of a dumb comment he made.

    6. Pathetic that they have to find 20yr comments. People can and do change for the better

  3. I’m sure we all said dumb stuff when were younger and held views that we no longer do.

    I try to judge people based on who they are now rather than what they thought 20+ years ago.

    1. A reminder that he was 41 years old in 2002 when that was published.

    2. ‘Younger’ means 20, not 40.

      1. But someone can change within 20 years (It is a bit questionable if someone has not managed to change after all that time) and I think it is unfair when something that was not brought up earlier is brought up after the person is criticised for another unrelated action. If the media actually cares about sexism, then they should have brought this up when he was appointed FIA president rather than bringing it up to make money! I think, (Assuming his comments about F1 was a mistake) a work related mistake should not be an opportunity to destroy someone’s character all of a sudden. Mistakes happen and they do not deserve to be continually punished over and over again. He made comments about F1’s value, he got criticised, so leave it there!

        And kinda think it is unfair women say things like “Women are better” or “Men are villains” openly but no one gets called out but when a man does that their entire character is ruined. Maybe let’s think about equality…?

  4. This is his culture. He was already 40, it’s who he grew up to be.

  5. An archived copy of the website from May 2002

    What a joke. And when I thought Liberty couldn’t be more awful they are now trying to do things the corporate mobster way.

    1. What has Liberty to do with this?
      And I cannot place the ‘corporate mobster’ comment either.

  6. And women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances?

    Ah, that was that other bloke.

    The reality is, a person can have a personal view that is different from their professional obligations. We certainly expect it of our medical professional.

  7. It is actually sounding like someone is aggrieved that he is strong in his stance on some things and does not appear to be able to be manipulated like others. They are therefore trying to bring him down by trolling back through the years to try and find some dirt.

  8. “nor do I like women who think they are smarter than men, for they are not in truth”

    Mmm does it means he thought back in 2001 women and men are equally smart?:))
    And now seems that he changed his mind;)
    Ahh was to be expected this kind of stuff after he began to get involved with FOM and LM… lets see who has more balls (I mean power;)).

  9. Jack (@jackisthestig)
    28th January 2023, 3:47

    Next time anyone thinks they are doing an excruciatingly boring task, spare a thought for the poor soul trawling through the archive of the FIA President’s personal website looking to find something interesting.

  10. I wonder if that’s the worst they have or if it will be the trickle that turns to a flood. He’s annoyed a lot of people on multiple fronts. It’s more of a warning shot than an assassination at this point.

    1. It’s petty and irrelevant, no matter what else they ‘have’ on him.
      It makes the people who dig this garbage up look worse than the person it applies to.

    2. It is not correct to delve into a persons history to try and find derogatory comments in order to smear them. People change over time. If anything, the fact they had to go back that far to find something they can use to label him as something negative, reflects more on the sort of person he is now, rather than what they perceive him to be based on one silly comment.

      This sort of thing is extremely detrimental to society and free speech as a whole, as if this continues, people in future are consistently going to be afraid to speak their minds and voice their opinions, and have open conversations about controversial topics.

      And yes, what he said was inappropriate, but that isn’t the point here.

      1. What has been said or done in the past should not be ignored or wiped. That would be akin to rewriting history to reshape the present to further a contemporary agenda in an Orwellian 1984 style so we should not leap to condemn the source.

        Ben should be judged by his actions now however – whether he still believes what he said then is only relevant in that context.

        1. That would be akin to rewriting history to reshape the present

          No – that would be accepting that it is history and not the present.

          Bringing up only very specific aspects of the past for a very specific purpose, however, can be considered a re-shaping of the present.

  11. Some desperation by The Times.

    1. Exactly, judge him on his record as FIA president – not on some silliness from 20+ years ago.

      Come on Martyn Ziegler, do better.

  12. At first I thought there was an isolated single issue around Ben, but it now slowly seems he might be up against the UK and they are building up narratives to get rid of him. Never underestimate their trickery ice the media. Ben is in for a rough time.

  13. This story has been hoisted to the top of the pile this morning.

    I do hope this site is not about to join in a woke witch hunt on the FIA President for comments he made when younger.

    Unless you are sure you are not also guilty sometime in the distant or recent past, at a party, after a few teenage drinks, or in absolute exasperation, while deep in a misogynist or misandrist culture; be sure not to cast the first stone.

  14. Is it ok to dislike men that say they are smarter than women?

  15. Itsmeagain (@)
    28th January 2023, 14:00

    This is how british media works. Digging to find something negative in order to use it cuze he has ‘attacked’ sir LH with new rules…..and even didn’t answer to a letter of some British politcian. Hilarious

  16. If you have to go through 20+ years of comments in order to find something offensive this guy said, I’d say he’s doing alright. This kind of “journalism” is disgusting.

  17. This is how Arab men feel about women. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. There is only a small minority of Arab men who’s beliefs would not align with bin Sulayem’s comments made 20 years ago. 10 years from now and 1000 years ago still no difference. I’ve never met an Arab man who was a feminist.

    1. To me, this is a main part of the story. And I don’t know why so many don’t get that his comment amounts to “Women need to learn their place.” Yes, it was a long time ago, but he was 41 at the time and how many (let alone living in the Middle East) become more moderate in their old age? Almost none. And I say this as someone who has been critical of most of the comments Lewis has made lately. So, I am the opposite of some woke crusader.

  18. Andy (@andyfromsandy)
    28th January 2023, 15:47

    It is not only British media but the whole world of politics and media.

    It is the ridiculous nature that no-one could possibly change their stance 20 years later. That they must still have the same views all these years later.

    A teenager experiments with pot but when they are in their 40s and looking to get into politics suddenly they are not an upstanding person for doing something 20 years previous.

    It is pathetic but the point scorers just won’t let it go and it ruins a person’s career but the points have been scored and on to destroy the next person.

  19. – he was 41 when he made those comments
    – the fact that there is (now) one point of evidence, means there is one too many
    – recently, he came down on political statements, which seem to be on the other side of the ideological spectrum
    -> so yes: this should be questioned and fully justifies an article

    1. I think you’re in the minority of one there mister.
      If I think back on the emotional and personal development I’ve had in the past twenty years or even ten years then to produce such an article is preposterous and displays exactly the kind of behaviour I hate from my country.

  20. The FIA says sexist comments made by Mohammed Ben Sulayem 20 years before he became president of the governing body do not reflect his current beliefs.

    That was a long time ago. when same-sex marriage was still banned in the UK. C’mon ! Let’s get serious.

    I have been critical of Ben Sulayem on this proper forum, though the amount of public shaming he is getting now for no reason other than standing up against Liberty is absolutely ridiculous and dangerous at the same time. I don’t say what he said is right but the fact that out of the blue he has been put under extreme scrutineering by a powerful PR machine to denigrate him is banana republic staff.

  21. Memories of the (British) East India Company and the Raj.
    To the rescue! Don’t rest until the FIA is safely back in European hands.

  22. A single comment and not really that damning at that either to be honest. Fair enough if they find a trend of comments but this is really poor journalism.

  23. What would I give for the world to have a day off from this mindless never ending self-righteous virtue signalling faux-outrage. Get a life for Christ’s sake.

  24. Since Ben sulayems comments re the sale of F1tl there has been a concerted amount of negative press about him here on RF.

    20 years ago? Really???

  25. Looking like a smear campaign now

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