A radical Islamic cleric who said homosexuality was punishable by death has drawn condemnation from the Muslim community, gay activists and the state’s highest political office for his totally unacceptable remarks.
At a meeting in Bankstown earlier this month, an excerpt of which was broadcast on Channel Nine’s 60 Minutes program last Sunday, US imam Sheik Khalid Yasin said Islamic law prescribed the death penalty for gay sex.
The sharia is very clear about it, the punishment for homosexuality, bestiality or anything like that is death. We don’t make any excuses about that, it’s not our law -” it’s the Koran, Yasin was quoted as saying.
Yasin, who is understood to be visiting Australia at the invitation of a Sydney mosque, also said young Muslims should avoid attending university because it was a gateway for deviation.
The cleric has since said 60 Minutes quoted him out of context, The Sydney Morning Herald reported. But that has not deterred widespread criticism from the Islamic community and non-Muslims.
The chief executive of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Amjad Mehboob, told Sydney Star Observer Yasin’s comments had brought numerous complaints from the Muslim community.
We are concerned about those comments and we have received many calls from members of the Muslim community to call for his expulsion from Australia, Mehboob said.
And while Islam did not condone homosexuality, Yasin’s anti-gay remarks were still unwelcome, Mehboob said.
I don’t think Sheik Yasin’s comments in this environment have helped the debate in the right direction. It has only caused undue conflict and divisions in our society, he said.
People have a right to a lifestyle [and] that’s their choice. It’s not for us to condemn them or not condemn them.
Outgoing NSW premier Bob Carr joined Mehboob in denouncing Yasin’s brand of Islam, telling ABC Radio Muslim fundamentalists should be blocked from visiting Australia.
If someone has a record of saying everything your country stands for is wrong -“ women should have no rights, homosexuals should be hunted down and persecuted -¦ I don’t think they have a role here, Carr said.
It is unclear whether Yasin’s comments amount to vilification under NSW law, according to the president of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board, Stepan Kerkyasharian.
But the cleric’s comments were still absolutely and totally unacceptable, Kerkyasharian told the Star.
They are unacceptable anywhere in the world, and people who hold views of that kind have no place in our society and particularly have no leadership role to play.
Gay groups have also spoken out against Yasin.
National gay activist Rodney Croome called for the sheik’s prosecution under anti-vilification laws and urged moderate Muslim leaders to speak out on gay issues.
They can’t counter extremism in some areas and not in others. There’s no point fostering good sense on women’s rights but leaving LGBT issues alone because they’re too hard. It’s all or nothing, Croome said.
NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby co-convenor David Scamell said Yasin’s remarks could provoke violence.
When religious leaders from any faith make comments such as these, their impact can incite violence. They are dangerous and show a lack of tolerance, Scamell said.
Canterbury-Bankstown District Gay and Lesbian Social Group (CBD) said the cleric’s comments were outrageous.
Those comments are really outrageous when you consider there are a number of gay and lesbian Muslim people out there who are already having a hard enough time as it is, CBD committee member David Skidmore told the Star.
CBD said it would continue to work with queer and queer-friendly Muslims.