SHAFAQNA – On the 29th of March, Eyewitness News, on WFTV channel 9, released a story airing extracts of an academic presentation I had given at the University of Michigan in 2013. They have grossly misrepresented the facts and published a story that is far from the truth. Simply stated, it is libel and defamation. Further aggravating this incredible misreporting is WFTV’s violation of AP standards and practices, which requires reporters to at least attempt to contact subjects directly for a response before publishing statements about them. Had they done so here, which they certainly did not, I would have refuted every such claim made in the first instance.
“Killing homosexuals is the compassionate thing to do” is a dangerous statement wrongly attributed to me and I can see why many people have become offended on hearing such a statement as aired on WFTV. The impression given by WFTV is that I am openly sanctioning the murder of homosexuals. This is wholly false in every sense. Furthermore, the edit and misattribution of my words represents one of the most blatant and reprehensible breaches of ethics in journalism. It is never acceptable to misrepresent sources.
Firstly, as an academic seminarian, I point to fundamental principles of academic discourse to engage in academic discussions on various views, whether I agree with them or not – as stated in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure ‘Academic freedom is essential to these purposes and applies to both teaching and research. Freedom in research is fundamental to the advancement of truth. Academic freedom in its teaching aspect is fundamental for the protection of the rights of the teacher in teaching and of the student to freedom in learning. It carries with it duties correlative with rights…’ The defamatory publication by WFTV attempts to silence academic discourse by manipulating my discussion to imply that I condone violence.
Secondly, the speech was presented as an academic exercise – not a personal opinion, verdict or in support of violence. Such academic settings from the outset, by their very nature, are distant and mutually exclusive to those that incite hatred.
Thirdly, also wrongly attributed to me was the phrase ‘the only way gays and lesbians can be forgiven is to die’. This is nonsense. Islam states they must repent before God like any other sinner. As mentioned in the original 1 hour lecture, a school of jurists have ruled that the sentencing is solely under specific circumstances which rarely arises in the real world. Moreover, the WFTV story stated that I have ‘been condemning homosexuals since at least 2013’. This is also untrue. Taking quotes out of context and misrepresenting me the way it was done is not only unethical and dangerous in this context; it also calls into question the credibility of the news organization. The speech at the University of Michigan, in 2013, was the first and last time before March 29th that I had spoken about the issue. Love the sinner, not the sin is an Islamic philosophy and way of life. Hence, the term ‘condemning’ qualifies to actions, not people. Thus, WFTV’s statement that I have ever, let alone continue to, condemn any person or group of people is blatantly false.
I request that the above statement be included in the online version of the WFTV story posted here http://www.wftv.com/news/
There were no attempts on behalf of the reporters and staff at WFTV to contact me directly for a statement, therefore again breaching a major tenet of journalistic ethics. Please afford me the courtesy of representing myself in your news story as this was denied to me before the story aired on television and now, on the Internet.
Peace be upon you all
For accuracy’s sake we are inviting our readers to refer to the following links to see for themselves:
“Islam and Homosexuality” – By Dr. Sekaleshfar
Link to the ABC News Australia interview: http://www.abc.net.
Original lecture “Islam and Homosexuality”, which caused the controversy. The lecture was given in an academic setting at the University of Michigan. It was given in 2013 and not 2016. at the University of Michigan. The topic was chosen by U of M students and not Dr. Sekaleshfar himself. The link to the 2013 lecture.