Iran-Based Cleric Linked to Orlando Says He Never “Gave the Call to a Death Sentence” at Talks on Homosexuality

Fusion draws attention to new Facebook postings by Sheikh Farrokh Sekaleshfar:

Asked specifically about his March comments about gays in Orlando, Sekaleshfar called it an “academic discussion” where he was describing the “theoretical angle as to what Islam says.”

“I never gave the call to a death sentence,” he said, adding that extracts were taken out of context. “I was explaining what Islamic law – in a country whose people democratically desired Islamic law to be exercised – states in relation to NOT homosexuals, but rather in relation to when the act of anal copulation is executed in such an aforementioned public,” he said.

Sekaleshfar is actually here describing a talk he gave in Dearborn in 2013, advertised under the title “Homosexual Muslim? An Engaging Spiritual Discourse on Sexuality in the Islamic Tradition”. Extracts from a video of this came to media attention a few months ago (thanks to a nudge from Tom Trento’s “United West” outfit), when he was scheduled to speak at Sanford near Orlando in March on “How to Deal with the Phenomenon of Homosexuality”. It seems that Fusion has conflated the two events, although it seems likely that Sekaleshfar said the same sort of thing as at Dearborn.

The full talk he gave in Dearborn can be seen on YouTube here – his “death is the sentence” comment, which is now notorious after the massacre in Orlando, comes at 58 minutes.

On the one hand, the overall impression from the video is that the softly-spoken Sekaleshfar places so many limitations around the possibility of an execution that gay people could survive discreetly in an Islamic society:

Inside their houses they can do whatever they want, they’re free… Before we get to the sentencing it has to go through these barriers, we never get there…It’s like adultery… Four people never see the practice being done… It’s a sin, it has to be repented, that’s it, between them and Allah.

That seems not to accord with claims that Sekaleshfar is a “gays must die” preacher or that he “calls for the death of all homosexuals”, even in an Islamic society.

On the other hand, however, he soon after follows with this:

We have to have that compassion for people. With homosexuals it’s the same. Out of compassion, let’s get rid of him [sic, although one report transcribes as “them”] now. Because he’s contaminating society… That’s with anal intercourse… With the non-anal type, the death sentence is not executed. There it’s 100 lashes.

The implication of this is that although he acknowledges and respects the “barriers” to reaching a conviction, this is not because he wants a legal device to make life possible for gay people in an Islamic society. If execution is the most “compassionate” outcome, then surely it must be the preferred outcome.

Sekaleshfar doesn’t come across as someone who is motivated by hatred, and his tone is sorrowful rather than sanguinary. But even though his talk of execution relates to only a limited and hypothetical situation, that does not make it less dehumanizing. On Facebook, Sekaleshfar appears to be genuinely repelled by what Mateen has done – but this is where talk of executing gay people eventually leads, however it is hedged and qualified.

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