Officials confirmed Wednesday that Islamic preacher Farrokh Sekaleshfar left Australia after his anti-homosexuality comments led the government to review his visa.
Sekaleshfar, a Shia cleric, told Australian Broadcasting Corp. at Sydney Airport on Tuesday night that he had not been asked to leave by the Australian government but is leaving after a discussion with the country’s Muslim community. The British-born scholar had travelled to Sydney last Tuesday to deliver a speech at the Imam Husain Islamic Center.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection Peter Dutton said Wednesday, “This individual has decided to leave of his own accord last night which we welcome and it will be very difficult if not impossible for him to return back to our country.”
He added that Sekaleshfar left before Dutton’s department cancelled his visa on Tuesday night.
Reports say that he delivered a lecture entitled “How to Deal with the Phenomenon of Homosexuality” at the Husseini Islamic Center in Sanford, Florida, in April. But there is no evidence to prove that Orlando gunman Oman Mateen attended the lecture.
Sekaleshfar, who also delivered an anti-homosexuality speech at the University of Michigan in 2013, reportedly denied that his comments could have inspired the Orlando massacre.
“No speech, especially when you're not inciting any hatred and it was given three years ago — that would never lead to such a massacre,” Sekaleshfar said, “That animal, they are connecting me to him [Omar Mateen]. Not at all. He was an ISIS sympathizer, a follower of al-Baghdadi, these people are criminals.”
Sekaleshfar reportedly said Monday that his 2013 comments were made in context of a lecture on Islamic law and homosexuality and that they should “not have been interpreted as a call for any Tom, Dick, or Harry to carry out a sentence wherever, whenever they like.”
Reports say that his Sydney lecture was not concerned with homosexuality at all. “I don’t want the community in Australia to feel disappointed and thinking that I’m here to incite evil,” he said.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull told reporters Tuesday that he has “zero tolerance for people to come to Australia who preach hatred.”