Manchester – One of the trustees of Manchester’s Islamic Cultural Centre is facing questions about his links to Tehran after he praised terrorist mastermind Qasem Soleimani at a regime event in Iran where the audience chanted “death to England” and “death to Israel”.
The preacher, Farrokh Sekaleshfar, who called for homosexuals to be put to death while preaching in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, shortly before a terrorist murdered 49 people at a nearby gay nightclub, is a trustee of a Manchester charity, based on an industrial estate in Carrington, south west of the city centre.
Now the JC can reveal that in 2020, the Manchester-born Shia cleric was a keynote speaker at a memorial organised by the Iranian regime in Qom, Iran’s holiest city, for terror chief Qasem Soleimani after he was killed in a US drone strike. Soleimani was the so-called “shadow commander” of the brutal Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Sekaleshfar is also listed as a speaker at the Islamic Centre of England (ICE), which has been named as the “London office” of the IRGC and is under investigation by the Charity Commission.
The revelations come after Manchester Labour MP Jeff Smith called on the government to launch an investigation into links between the Iranian regime and Islamic cultural centres in the city and across the UK.
Speaking in the House of Commons, he said there were “wider concerns about other cultural centres across the UK, including in Manchester, allegedly having links to the regime and allegedly controlled by [Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei.”
He added: “Would the government consider a wider investigation of those outposts — those cultural centres — so that we can get to the bottom of this and get to the truth?”
His call came during a parliamentary debate in which Security Minister Tom Tugendhat warned of the threat posed by the Iranian regime and its operatives in the UK and highlighted the ongoing inquiry into ICE.
Sekaleshfar, 49, claims to be a trained doctor and medical researcher, although he is not currently registered with the General Medical Council.
He is a trustee and a director of a Shia Muslim educational charity, the Islamic Cultural Centre (Manchester).
His father, Farhad, and brother, Seena, are also trustees. His brother is additionally a trustee at another similar organisation the Manchester Islamic Institute, based in the centre of the city, which also hosts radical Iranian preachers.
After graduating in the UK, he spent ten years at an Islamic seminary in Qom. It was there, in February 2020, that he gave a keynote speech venerating Soleimani a few weeks after the terror chief was killed in a US drone strike.
Speaking in front of huge posters of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis — an IRGC colonel who was killed alongside him — Sekaleshfar praised Ayatollah Khomeini, the country’s first supreme leader and read from Soleimani’s will.
As Sekaleshfar stood on the stage, the audience chanted “death to America”, “death to England” and “death to Israel”.
Also on the platform was Mohsen Araki, the former head of ICE in London. In a second speech in the Iranian city, in December 2021, Sekaleshfar again described Soleimani as a “martyr”.
In 2016, Sekaleshfar was barred from giving a talk in Australia after it emerged he had said the death penalty was justified for homosexuals under Islamic laws.
Days after he gave a similar sermon in Orlando, Florida, that year, a local radical killed 49 people — opening fire on a LGBT club in the city.
There was no evidence the killer had heard the sermon and Sekaleshfar denied he was “sanctioning the murder of homosexuals”.
Steve McCabe MP, chair of Labour Friends of Israel, said: “The government should look at this. There’s not much point in having sanctions on members of the Iranian regime if their proxies are running around this country acting for them.”
A Community Security Trust spokesperson said: “This is yet another example of the close links that some institutions and individuals in the UK have to the Iranian regime and the IRGC.
“There is an urgent need for any institutions linked to the Iranian government or the IRGC to be investigated.”
The JC has approached the Manchester Islamic Cultural Centre for comment and Sekaleshfar and his father and brother for comment.v