An imam who was recorded giving a speech to school children at a publicly-funded private school in Canada, during which he said homosexuality was a “special case” like cancer, AIDS and diabetes, has said his comments were taken out of context.

The comments made by Mustafa Khattab, former iman of the Al-Rashid Mosque, which has close ties to the Edmonton Islamic Academy, have also prompted members of the Alberta Liberal Party to call for the school’s public funding to be cut.

In the video posted last autumn, Khattab says: “Personally I don’t like to be associated with this. For me someone who is homosexual is like someone who has diabetics (sic), or someone who has cancer, or AIDS. He has a special case and this person needs special treatment.”

Khattab has said that he was speaking to the students during a lunch break, not during a class, and that he was responding to a student’s question about homosexuality.

CBC News reports that he sent a statement late on Wednesday which said: “I agree I might have been unlucky in my choice of words, but I believe the comment was taken out of context and misrepresented,

“Whoever reported the comment failed to mention what I said about gays and lesbians being our brothers and sisters in humanity and they shouldn’t be discriminated against — even if we might disagree with what they do.”

The former iman, who left the mosque last autumn for unrelated reasons, went on to say that the views expressed were his alone, and not those of the school. He later left Canada for Egypt.

“To characterize me or the Academy as homophobic and to call for the pulling of funding for private schools is really unfortunate,” he continued.

The Alberta Liberal Party on Wednesday said that the academy was promoting hate and intolerance, and said it should not be receiving public funding from the province.

It currently receives CAD$4 million (£2.5 million), each year.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson, however, said his department had investigated the comments, and said the school did not endorse the comments made by Khattab on the video.