Australian PM apologises for having dinner with ‘gays deserve AIDS’ preacher

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull (Stefan Postles/Getty Images)

The Australian Prime Minister has been forced to apologise for inviting a preacher who claims that homosexuality is an “evil action” that causes God to give them AIDS.

PM Malcolm Turnbull had been hoping to build cross-community relations with Australia’s Muslim community at an iftar dinner hosted to break the Ramadan fast.

It is the first time in Australian history that a Prime Minister has hosted such a dinner – but Mr Turnbull found himself challenged about one of the guests of honour, Sheikh Shady Alsuleiman.

The Sheikh, who is the national president of the Australian National Imams Council, had preached in a 2013 sermon: “What’s the most common disease these days?

“HIV, AIDS, that’s so common and there’s no cure to it. And when did it exist? Just decades ago, and more diseases are coming.

“It’s homosexuality that’s spreading all these diseases. Let’s not deny the fact. There are evil actions that bring on evil outcomes to society.”

He added: “If people commit the fahisha, the evil deed, the evil action, in the open and people do it in the public the Allah will send on them diseases … diseases they have never experienced before.”

Prime Minister Turnbull has since apologised for having dinner with the Sheikh.

He told radio station 3AW: “Views like this are wrong, unacceptable and I condemn them.”

“If I had been aware that he made those remarks … he would not have been invited.”

The PM added: “Homophobia should be condemned everywhere.

“We are a broad and diverse country, and we respect the rights of gay Australians, we respect the rights of the LGBTI community and the rights to lead their lives and gather together in peace and harmony.

“At the foundation of our success of mutual respect, at the core of that mutual respect is love. Love for our fellow humanity, that is when we are closest to God.”

Despite online video of the speech, the Sheikh appears to have denied making any homophobic remarks.

He said: “I reject the claim that I made statements wishing or wanting punishment against the gay community or the individuals. I have previously noted 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.”

Turnbull is a lukewarm supporter of equal marriage, but his party is deeply divided on LGBT issues. He has stuck by plans to stall the marriage issue until a public vote, rather than allow MPs to vote on it.

The PM also came under fire for gutting a sex education campaign of much of its LGBT content, after a campaign led by right-wing Christian MPs who claimed it was “brainwashing”.