Australian authorities could expel a visiting Muslim scholar over his comments on homosexuality. The British-born Shia preacher lectured in Orlando this year and preached in 2013 that "death is the sentence" for those who engage in homosexual acts.
Sheik Farrokh Sekaleshfar is currently in Australia as a guest of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre in Sydney, where he is expected to give a series of lectures. In April, Sekaleshfar presented a sermon in Sanford, Florida about "How to deal with the phenomenon of homosexuality", where he justified the death penalty for homosexuals under Islamic law.
During a talk in Michigan in 2013, the Muslim scholar said: "Death is the sentence. There's nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence."
Although there has been no evidence of a link between his lecture and the shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando on 12 June, many have cited the Muslim scholar's comments in the wake of the attack. However, Sekaleshfar told Reuters on 13 June that he condemned the Orlando shooting, saying: "This barbaric act was beyond all definitions of humanity."
Despite this, Australian Prime Minsiter Malcolm Turnbull has ordered a review of the scholar's visa to Australia. On 14 June, Turnball said: "We have zero tolerance for people who come to Australia to preach hatred. This is a legal matter and has to be dealt with in the appropriate way."
Sekaleshfar has said that his comments about homosexuality were taken out of context and that he did not believe his words had inspired the Orlando shooting. He insisted that he was speaking specifically about homosexuality in Islamic law and that this should "not have been interpreted as a call for any Tom, Dick or Harry to carry out a sentence wherever, whenever they like."
However, he stuck by the words he used during his sermon in Michigan, saying that he wasn't inciting violence or asking anyone to kill homosexuals. He also added that his speech was referring specifically to homosexual acts in public, and not what they do within the privacy of their homes.
Ahead of the Australian government's decision to reconsider his visa, Sekaleshfar said that he had no plans to discuss homosexuality during his visit to the country. He said: "I don't want the community in Australia to feel disappointed and thinking that I'm here to incite evil."