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Leaders of the Sydney mosque where Sheik Taj al-Din al-Hilaly preaches have not ruled out taking action over the cleric’s comments that immodestly-dressed women are inviting rape.
But the Lebanese Muslim Association (LMA), which runs the Lakemba Mosque in the city’s south-west, said it would give Sheik Alhilali the benefit of the doubt until it had reviewed his address.
The mufti triggered outrage from politicians and moderate Muslims after comparing women who wear revealing clothes to “uncovered meat”.
LMA president Tom Zreika said he was “flabbergasted” on reading the cleric’s comments today.
“In order to afford him natural justice principles, we said he’s got the benefit of the doubt until we have reviewed the comments on the tape as well as on the translated transcripts,” he said.
“We would like to assure the wider public, which we are part of, that those comments were hurtful, misguided and were taken out of context.”
Earlier Sheik Hilaly issued an apology for the remarks.
The Australian newspaper reported today that, in a sermon delivered last month, Sheik Hilaly likened scantily clad women to uncovered meat eaten by animals.
“I unreservedly apologise to any woman who is offended by my comments,” he said in a statement today. “I had only intended to protect women’s honour, something lost in The Australian presentation of my talk.”
Sheik Hilaly has been widely condemned by Muslim and other groups for the Ramadan sermon he gave in Arabic to 500 worshippers in Sydney.
According to The Australian’s translation, he said: “If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the the garden or in the park, or in the backyard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it … whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat.”
“The uncovered meat is the problem.
“If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (Islamic headscarf which covers the hair neck and shoulders), no problem would have occurred.”
Oh, accursed uncovered meat!
The mufti of Australia and New Zealand did not back away from his comments but said he was shocked by the way his sermon was interpreted.
“The Australian front page article reported selected comments from a talk presented one month ago,” the sheik said.
“The title was ‘Why men were mentioned before women for the crime of theft and woman (sic) before men for the sin of fornication’.
“I would like to unequivocally confirm that the presentation related to religious teachings on modesty and not to go to extremes in enticements, this does not condone rape, I condemn rape and reiterate that this is a capital crime.
As usual, Hilaly is lying:
Prime Minister John Howard earlier today labelled the comments appalling and reprehensible.
“They are quite out of touch with contemporary values in Australia,” Mr Howard said. “The idea that women are to blame for rapes is preposterous. I not only reject the comments, I condemn them unconditionally.”
Mr Howard said the sheik’s remarks clearly related to a “particularly appalling” rape trial in Sydney.
And as usual, when the going gets hot, he is playing the bad health/sympathy card:
A spokesman for Sheik Hilaly said the backlash and criticism had badly affected him and he had been depressed and confined to bed all day, breathing with the assistance of an oxygen tank.
The good news is that members of the Australian Islamic community have joined in the condemnation.
The United Muslim Women Association (MWA) also joined the chorus of condemnation.
Maha Abdo, manager of the association, said she was shocked by the comments, which did not reflect mainstream Muslim beliefs and warned they would create a backlash against Muslim women.
“From what I know of the imam, he’s always been very supportive of women’s rights and women’s issues, and advocate of women,” she said. “We are continually having to say Muslim women have rights. We are concerned about the consequences of the reporting today.”
Ms Abdo said she “disagreed totally” with Sheik Hilaly’s words and said there should be no blame on victims of sex attacks.
She also warned that his comments could confuse understanding of why some Muslim women choose to wear the hijab.
“It’s not a sign of deference or as a sign this gives me protection against being attacked,” she said. “Rather this is a spiritual connection for me at a personal level between me and God.
The Islamic Council of Victoria (ICV) earlier called on the cleric to resign with committee member Sherene Hassan saying she was outraged by the comments.
“Those comments are extremely offensive, and there is no basis for what he said in Islamic teachings,” Ms Hassan said to AAP. “They are a paternal distortion of Islamic teachings.
“The ICV is issuing a statement calling for his resignation.
A spokesman for the Islamic Council of New South Wales, Ali Roude, today said he was “astonished” at the comments, saying the sheik “had failed both himself and the Muslim community”.
A former member of the Federal Government’s Muslim Advisory board, Iktimal Hage-Ali, said she had listened to a recording of Sheik Hilaly’s speech and believed he should be stripped of his position.
“I was just flabbergasted,” she said on ABC radio.
Despite insisting The Australian misrepresented the sermon delivered at his mosque in southwest Sydney in September, two independent translations of the Ramadan address were even more damning of the sheik.
In a clear reference to the notorious Sydney gang rapists, Sheik Hilali said in the sermon: “It is she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on make-up and powder and takes to the streets, God protect us, dallying.
“It’s she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then it’s a look, then a smile, then a conversation, a greeting, then a conversation, then a date, then a meeting, then a crime, then Long Bay Jail,” he tells his worshippers with a chuckle.
“Then you get a judge, who has no mercy and he gives you 65 years.
“But when it comes to this disaster, who started it? In his literature, scholar al-Rafihi says: ‘If I came across a rape crime – kidnap and violation of honour – I would discipline the man and order that the woman be arrested and jailed for life.’ Why would you do this, Rafihi? He says because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn’t have snatched it.”
Update: You can find the full text of his speech here. And as you can see, he doesn’t have despicable views on women only.
“Those atheists, people of the book (Christians and Jews), where will they end up? In Surfers Paradise? On the Gold Coast? Where will they end up? In hell and not part-time, for eternity. They are the worst in God’s creation.”