A senior Muslim preacher who once called homosexuality an “evil act” for which AIDS was a godly punishment,has dined with Prime Minister Turnbull at a government-hosted banquet-an invitation Mr Turnbull now says he regrets.
Australian-born Sheik Shady Al-Suleiman, President of the national Australian Imams Council, ate at Kirribilli House with the PM, government staffers and religious and community leaders Thursday at an Iftar dinner marking the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
Mr Turnbull said he was unaware of the Sheik’s controversial comments, and if he had known, the preacher would not have been included on the guest list.
“I do regret his invitation,” Mr Turnbull told 3AW. “He was invited in an official capacity as president of the Imam Council and the guest list was assembled by my department.
“If I had been aware he made those remarks about homosexuals and gay people, he would not have been invited.”
Online videos show Sheik Al-Suleiman making more incendiary comments, including describing sexually transmitted diseases as “evil outcomes” of the “evil act” of homosexuality, calling for adulterers to be stoned to death, and for women who have sex outside of marriage to be “hung by their breasts in hell.”
“Remember that if there is an Islamic state the punishment [for sex outside of marriage], if they have never been married before, they will be lashed 100 lashes,” he said.
“If they are married, or previously been married and divorced, then their punishment is stoning to death.”
The Sheik has also appealed for God to “destroy the enemies of Islam.”
Mr Turnbull said he first learned of the Sheik’s radical commentary at the dinner.
“That’s the first time I have heard of that and it’s completely unacceptable,” he said.
“I condemn remarks of that kind. They have no place in Australian law or Australian culture.”
The dinner, the first of its kind to be held by an Australian PM, included about 60 guests from across all different cultural backgrounds, including Gold Logie winner Waleed Aly, the Archbishop of Sydney, Reverend Glenn Davies and Richmond footballer Bachar Houli.
Mr Turnbull’s appealed all guests for unity against racial division and radicalism.
“The aim of extremists including those committing violence through a warped and nihilist interpretation of religion is to divide us and to turn our citizens against each other – but we will not let them win,” he said.
“Acts of terror like Sunday’s massacre in Orlando are perpetrated to divide us along the lines of race, religion, sect and sexuality – but that kind of hatred and division must not prevail.
“We must stand together like we do tonight as one Australian family united against terrorism, racism, discrimination, and violence.
Sheik Al-Suleiman later released a statement saying, “I reject the claim that I made statements wishing or wanting punishment against the cay community or the individuals. I have previously note4d passages in the holy Quran which do not support homosexuality. However, I always follow such statements with a personal commitment to tolerance and encouragement that all Muslims and all people approach all individuals, no matter their faith, race or sexuality, in a considerate and respectful way.”