Thursday, October 26, 2006

Australian Muslim Leader Under Fire Over Remarks On Women

Australia's most senior Islamic cleric has sparked uproar after describing scantily-clad women as "uncovered meat" inviting sexual attack. The government's sex discrimination commissioner called for the cleric, Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali, to be sacked and deported while several ministers expressed outrage over the remarks. Al-Hilali made the remarks in a Ramadan sermon to 500 worshippers last month in which he criticised women who "sway suggestively", wear make-up and no hijab or Islamic headscarf, The Australian newspaper reported. "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in 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," he said."The uncovered meat is the problem. If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred." Sex Discrimination Commissioner Pru Goward said Al-Hilali, who has the title Mufti of Australia, had a history of making such comments and should be thrown out of the country. "It is incitement to a crime. Young Muslim men who now rape women can cite this in court, can quote this man ... their leader in court," she told Australian television. "It's time we stopped just saying he should apologise. It is time the Islamic community did more than say they were horrified. "I think it's time he was asked to go and I would encourage the authorities to consider whether a man who incites young Muslim men to crime, because that is essentially what he has done, should be allowed to stay," she said. Goward said she was not aware of the citizenship status of the Egyptian-born cleric who arrived in Australia in 1982 from Lebanon. Al-Hihali told The Australian that he only meant to refer to prostitutes as meat, and not any scantily-clad woman without a hijab, but the paper says there was no mention of the word prostitute in the sermon.Australia last month announced plans to toughen its citizenship policies but denied that new demands requiring immigrants to pledge allegiance to Australian values were aimed at Muslims. Immigrants will have to sit a 45-minute test covering their competency in English and issues such as democracy, the rule of law and the equality of men and women, under the government blueprint. The move comes after repeated complaints by Prime Minister John Howard that some members of Australia's 300,000-strong Muslim community refused to fully integrate into society.