Orlando shooting
Men, draped in a rainbow flag, embrace ahead of a candle light vigil in memory of victims one day after a mass shooting at the Pulse gay night club in Orlando, Florida, U.S., June 13, 2016. Reuters/Adrees Latif

A Muslim cleric, who critics claim has inspired the massacre at a gay club in Orlando, US, is in Sydney. Sheik Farrokh Sekaleshfar held a series of talks in March about homosexuality, telling his listeners that “death is the sentence” for gay people.

Months before 29-year-old shooter Omar Mateen killed 49 people in Pulse gay nightclub on Sunday, Sekaleshfar delivered lectures on homosexuality in Orlando. In the lecture, he explained why homosexuals in Islamic society must be given death penalty.

The sheikh is currently in Sydney for a speaking engagement every evening throughout the month of Ramadan at an Inner West Islamic centre, the Herald Sun reports. He is staying in south-western Earlwood as guest of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre.

“Death is the sentence,” he said at one of his lectures, referring to punishment for homosexuals. “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about this. Death is the sentence.”

Sekaleshfar, a British-born doctor, has not been linked to the Orlando shooter and it’s unclear if Mateen even attended his lecture. The sheik said he was being made into a “scapegoat” for the Orlando shooting after it has emerged that he gave a series of lectures on homosexuality.

He said he emphatically condemned the massacre, explaining that his lectures were taken out of context. He told the Daily Telegraph that his comments on homosexuality were “academic discussion” about Islamic societies, not Western societies.

Although Sekaleshfar said he believes homosexuality is a sin like adultery, they don’t hate the sinner, just the act.

“The barbaric act was beyond all definitions of humanity,” he said. If Mateen had been present in his lectures or had watched his YouTube videos, the shooter would have condemned hate and violence.

Sekaleshfar said he has received death threats since the shooting. People have been linking him to the massacre, saying that Mateen had taken inspiration of hate from his lectures.

Mateen gunned down 49 people and injured 53 at the Pulse gay nightclub on Sunday. His father, Seddigue Mir Mateen, said his son’s act had “nothing to do with religion,” despite reports saying his son declared allegiance to ISIS.

The senior Mateen told NBC News that his son was enraged after recently witnessing a same-sex couple kiss in front of his family. This event could have set him off, Seddique said.