Before the Orlando shooting, Islamic scholar Farrokh Sekaleshfar lectured in that city, reports the Daily Mail. Although the article says it isn’t suggesting any direct link between Sekaleshfar and the shooter, 29-year-old Omar Mateen, some of Sekaleshfar’s recorded views on gays raised eyebrows.
“Death is the sentence,” Sekaleshfar said in 2013. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence… We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of them now.”
Sekaleshfar reportedly made similar comments in Orlando in March.
The Orlando shooting at the nightclub Pulse took the lives of 50 people and wounded dozens more. President Obama shied away from blaming radical Islam for the attack. Both Mateen’s father, Mir Seddique Mateen, and his ex-wife, Sitora Yusufiy, said they thought the Orlando shooting had “nothing to do with religion,” according to CNN.
But after the shooting, a message posted on a website tied to ISIS raised doubts.
PHOTO: Image provided by the Orlando Police Department shows the shooting suspect at the Pulse nightclub. pic.twitter.com/WYAyLQPd98
— The Associated Press (@AP) June 12, 2016
“The armed attack that targeted a gay night club in the city of Orlando in the American state of Florida and that bore more than a 100 killed and wounded was carried out by an Islamic state fighter,” the message said.
The Orlando shooting is something Islamic scholar Farrokh Sekaleshfar disowns emphatically. The preacher says he has received death threats since the shooting by people trying to link him to it. At odds with his self-proclaimed compassionate call to get rid of gays, Sekaleshfar posted his sympathy to the families and friends of the victims on Facebook. He also said that religion never justifies the taking of innocent lives and that his March lecture in Orlando included condemnations of hate and violence and a call to compassion towards everyone.
“The perpetrator of this shooting has directly violated this holy commandment,” he said, “and displayed a complete disregard for the sanctity of human life and divine values.”
— Daily Mail US (@DailyMail) June 13, 2016
Sekaleshfar urged his friends to not only share the grief of the victims’ families but also to support their needs.
“This is an Islamic value in all cases where people are being oppressed – whoever they are,” he said.
Reverend Bryan Fulwider told Fusion that the Orlando shooting has nothing to do with the values of the Islamic community. Fulwider, a member of the Interfaith Council of Central Florida, has worked with both Muslims and the LGBT community. Fulwider says Omar Mateen wasn’t a devoted Muslim but a mad man. He also called Sekaleshfar’s comments in the lecture on homosexuality a “terrible statement.”
Sekaleshfar, however, says an edited and widely circulated short video takes a couple of his comments from the 2013 lecture out of context and distorts them. He says he never called for a death sentence and that his discussion was purely academic, a “theoretical angle as to what Islam says.” The full lecture can be seen below.
The Orlando shooting investigation continues, with Omar Mateen’s motive still just speculation. Whether he was a madman or not, Mateen did call 911 from the bathroom during the attacks and pledged allegiance to ISIS, according to the New York Daily News. His father, like his ex-wife, said Omar did not do this based on some religious belief, but he also admitted his son was enraged when he saw two men during a trip to Miami.
CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz cast further doubt on the religious motive, though. Abdelaziz, who is experienced in analyzing ISIS messaging, says the wording on the terrorist organization’s website is inconsistent with their other claims of responsibility.
During the Orlando shooting, Islamic scholar Farrokh Sekaleshfar was on a lecture tour in Australia.
[Photo by Dario Pignatelli/Getty Images]