Malcolm Turnbull became the first Australian Prime Minister to serve up a Ramadam feast for Muslim leaders at Kirribilli House last night, using the traditional fast-breaking Iftar dinner as a show of unity in the wake of the Orlando mass-shooting, which left 49 people dead.
His guests included Gold Logie Waleed Aly and his wife Susan Carland, AFL footballer Bachar Houli and leader of several Islamic organisations, including a controversial cleric who once described homosexuality as an “evil act”.
Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman, who is the national president of the Australian National Imams Council, once claimed HIV and AIDS were a “divine punishment” for homosexuality.
He also once warned women should be “hung by the breasts in hell”, according to Nine News.
Many reacted strongly against his inclusion in the dinner, which was otherwise a successful multi-faith celebration.
The Prime Minister was quick to denounce the sheikh’s views on 3AW this morning and said he “regrets” he was invited to the meal.
“Views like this are wrong, unacceptable and I condemn them,” Turbull said in a statement.
“Mutual respect is the key to the success of our diverse tolerant multicultural society.”
That sentiment was echoed strongly in his speech at last night’s dinner when he called for unity just days after the targeted terrorist attack on the LGBTI community in Orlando.
“Acts of terror like Sunday’s massacre in Orlando are perpetrated to divide us along lines of race, religion, sect and sexuality – but that kind of hatred and division must not prevail,” he said.
“We must stand together like we do tonight as one Australian family united against terrorism, racism, discrimination and violence.”
Turnbull and Aly also crossed live to The Project desk for a short interview, in which he praised the “energy”, “patriotism” and “enthusiasm” of those present.
“We are the most successful multicultural society in the world. We are all enriched by our diversity,” he said.
“The whole diversity of Australia was represented here tonight at a meal breaking the fast, so important to Muslim Australians.”
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