Muslim cleric Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar, who is known for his controversial sermons condoning homosexuality, reportedly preached at a mosque near Orlando, Florida, in the weeks before Omar Mateen murdered 49 people and injured 50 others at a gay nightclub.
A British-born scholar and medical doctor, Sheikh Sekaleshfar lives in Iran but travels the world to share his religious beliefs with others. Most recently, he reportedly shared a sermon titled "How to Deal with the Phenomenon of Homosexuality" at the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford, Florida.
"@Lybio: Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar Be Compassionate To Gays - interesting spin!!!. https://t.co/0t9FlK3a55 pic.twitter.com/Y0mGHPTU0Z"
— david (@drdr6262) April 14, 2016
According to Fox News, the controversial sermon was preached behind closed doors and was directed toward local LGBT community leaders and supporters. In 2013, Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar shared a similar message at the University of Michigan, where he suggested death as a means of "compassion" for homosexuals.
"Death is the sentence. There's nothing to be embarrassed about this. We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals, it's the same. Out of compassion, let's get rid of them now."
Representatives of the Husseini Islamic Center said they were not aware that Farrokh Sekaleshfar's sermon contained the highly controversial message. The center contends "management at the Husseini Islamic Center was unaware of the remarks that were made when [the cleric] was invited" to speak. The representatives also explained Sheikh Sekaleshfar's beliefs do not necessarily echo their own.
"... singular views of guest speakers did not represent those of the Husseini Islamic Center. We want to reiterate that nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify Sunday's atrocious actions."
Although he has openly condoned homosexuality, Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar spoke out against the Orlando massacre and the suspect who killed 49 people and injured 50 others.
In a recent interview, the cleric called the suspect "an ill and perverted, animalistic entity who has abused an ideology to satiate his sad and twisted desires." He also said he is "totally against the barbaric act of violence that has happened. In no way at all can such a killing be justified Islamically."
When confronted about his previous comments about homosexuals, Farrokh Sekaleshfar dismissed his words as an "academic discussion," pointing out that he was simply explaining the "theoretical angle as to what Islam says."
Sheikh Sekaleshfar vehemently denied suggesting a death sentence for homosexuals, explaining that his words were taken out of context. The scholar said he had been subjected to an avalanche of abuses since the shooting took place and had received multiple death threats from people claiming he encouraged the shooter to massacre the Orlando nightclub.
Farrokh Sekaleshfar admitted it is possible the gunman may have heard his lecture. However, the cleric said the suspect would have clearly heard him condemn violence and hate numerous times. The scholar said he often urges Muslims to show compassion to everyone, including those with dissimilar beliefs.
Controversial Muslim cleric Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar to leave Australia tonight after anti-gay comment storm https://t.co/wY0zBF6EvI
— ABC News (@abcnews) June 14, 2016
The British-born preacher concluded by calling on his followers to offer humanitarian support to those affected by the shooting and to share in their grief.
Omar Mateen, 29, of Fort Pierce Florida was solely responsible for the Pulse nightclub massacre on Sunday, which authorities are calling the worst mass shooting in American history. A total of 49 people were killed and 53 others were wounded.
According to reports, Mateen was interviewed by the FBI in 2013 and 2014 after making comments supporting terrorism. However, he was never deemed a threat.
Mateen, who worked as a security guard, legally purchased a handgun and an AR-15 type rifle the week before the massacre.
As reported by CNN, he called 911 and pledged allegiance to ISIS immediately prior to storming the Orlando nightclub, which had over 300 people in attendance.
Following a standoff that lasted three hours, three sheriff deputies and 11 Orlando police officers barged into the building to rescue the survivors. Mateen was reportedly distracted by an explosion and stun grenades. He subsequently faltered and died in a firefight with law enforcement.
The gunman's father, Seddique Mateen, said his son was motivated to kill after he saw two men kissing in front of his family in Miami. Seddique condemned the shooting. However, he added that homosexuals would be punished by God. Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar is presently in Australia for a speaking tour.
[Image via India Picture/Shutterstock]