SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia is urgently reviewing the visa of a British Islamic scholar who toured Orlando this year and had preached in 2013 that “death is the sentence” for homosexual acts.
Farrokh Sekaleshfar, a senior Shi’ite Muslim scholar, is giving a series of lectures at an Islamic centre in Sydney on the topic of spirituality.
Sekaleshfar said in a lecture in Michigan in 2013 that in an Islamic society, the death penalty should be carried out for homosexuals who engaged in sodomy.
“Out of compassion, let’s get rid of him now, because he’s contaminating society,” Sekaleshfar said in a talk at that time, according to a recording available online.
There is no evidence of any link between his comments and the American Muslim man who killed 49 people in a gay nightclub in Orlando on Sunday, the deadliest mass shooting in the United States.
Sekaleshfar told Reuters on Monday he condemned the Orlando shooting as a “barbaric act of terror that was in no way justified”.
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters on Tuesday he has “zero tolerance for people to come to Australia who preach hatred” and his government was reviewing Sekaleshfar’s visa “as we speak”.
The Immigration Office did not directly respond to a query on how long that review would take or what it would involve, but referred Reuters to comments made by Immigration Minister Peter Dutton earlier in the day.
Dutton said he was advised on Monday of Sekaleshfar’s presence in Australia and his previous comments, and he would look at all the facts before making a decision.
“People who come to our country, regardless of what visa category they come on, they will abide by Australian law or their visa will be cancelled and they will be deported from our country,” Dutton said.
Sekaleshfar could not be reached for comment on Tuesday. He arrived at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre just after nightfall to give his scheduled lecture, and declined to speak to waiting media.
Calls and emails to the centre were not returned.
Sekaleshfar said on Monday that his comments in 2013 were made in the context of a lecture on Islamic law and homosexuality and should “not have been interpreted as a call for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to carry out a sentence wherever, whenever they like”.
“In the context it was right,” he said of the Michigan speech. “It wasn’t inciting, nor saying to everyone to kill homosexuals, that it’s open to everyone to do that, that’s not the case.”
He also said that in the speech he was referring to homosexual acts in public. “Even in an Islamic country, what they do in the privacy of their house, no one can say anything about,” he said.
In his 2013 lecture, Sekaleshfar said: “There is nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.”
“Islam doesn’t accept people’s faith to be compromised, to be threatened and it has to be taken seriously,” he said. “With homosexuals it is the same.”
Sekaleshfar, who gave a different lecture in Orlando in March, is on his second visit to Australia in as many years.
According to the Islamic centre’s website, Sekaleshfar will be giving lectures through the Islamic holy month of Ramadan on the Koran and the testaments of mystics.
Sekaleshfar said he had no plans to talk about homosexuality in the current lecture series.
“I don’t want the community in Australia to feel disappointed and thinking that I’m here to incite evil,” he said before Turnbull’s statement.
(Additional reporting by Jason Reed in Sydney; Edited by Raju Gopalakrishnan)