Sheikh Yahya Safi, head imam of the nation’s biggest Islamic congregation, said yesterday that gay people went against human nature.
“In Islam we believe that it’s a major sin to have such relations between men and men, a sexual relation,” he said.
“In the Islamic community we don’t discuss this because it’s obvious and we have full agreement between all people about it,” he said.
Sheikh Safi’s comments come after the Salvation Army apologised for comments by a leading church official that homosexuals deserved to die.
Speaking to gay radio station Joy FM, Salvos’ Victorian spokesman Major Andrew Craibe endorsed a Biblical passage that said being gay was evil and punishable by death.
“Well, that’s part of our belief system,” he said when asked if he agreed with the passage, which is included in a Salvation Army handbook that is given to new members.
He also said homosexuality was a choice – like drinking alcohol – that needed to be resisted.
Yesterday, the Salvos “sincerely” apologised.
Spokesman Major Bruce Harmer said the comments were “extremely regrettable” and Salvation Army members did “not believe, and would never endorse, a view that homosexual activity should result in any form of physical punishment”.
He said: “The Salvation Army acknowledges that the interview has led to a serious misunderstanding of our teaching.”
Sheik Safi also sounded a warning against polygamy, which is common in some Muslim societies.
“It’s not recommended in Islam to have more than one wife,” he said.
“Because when you have more than one wife you will have more obligations and you will face more problems.”
Sheikh Safi, who spoke to the Herald Sun after his regular workout at the gym next to his mosque, is among several imams who have undertaken a civics training program funded by the Immigration Department.
The program seeks to equip the religious leaders with an overview of Australian laws and values for them to pass on to their communities.
Program co-ordinator and Australian Multicultural Foundation executive director Hass Dellal said the imams were encouraged to preach values such as the fair go, freedom, compassion and tolerance in their weekly sermons.
“This will help young people who are vulnerable to negative messages to correct those,” he said.
Victorian Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby spokeswoman Sally Golder said Major Craibe’s remarks had damaged the charity’s reputation and were “completely unacceptable”.
“I have never heard such damaging and intensely homophobic comments,” she said.
“This individual needs to be hauled over the coals for saying something like this.”