A few weeks ago, I happened to interview Sheikh Taj el-Din al-Hilali outside the Lakemba Mosque in Sydney where he delivered his controversial sermon.
A softly-spoken man, who clearly commands both enormous respect and affection within his community, the Egyptian-born cleric discussed the government’s recent proposals for an Australian citizenship test – an examination which many Muslim immigrants believe is targeted at them.
His English is poor, and it was difficult at times to make out precisely what he was saying.
But he told me he was keen to encourage the greater use of English in mosques and for Imams to gain a much greater understanding of Australian history and culture.
Though he did not agree with Prime Minister John Howard’s contentious view that sections of the 300,000-strong Muslim community are not doing enough to integrate themselves into the mainstream of Australian society, he seemed prepared at least to address the criticism in a constructive way.
Sheikh Hilali referred more than once to the idea of “the Aussie imam”, as he called it – model clerics with a broad knowledge of Australian culture and history. Neat, snappy and eminently quotable. Just the kind of epithet which sticks in a journalist’s mind.
Now some of the cleric’s fellow Muslims, including the Islamic Council of New South Wales, are calling his comments comparing immodestly dressed women to “uncovered meat” as “unIslamic, unAustralian and unacceptable.”
Far from building bridges with the wider community, he seems to have dug himself an almighty hole.
For the record,here’s the back story on this:
A Muslim cleric’s claim that women who do not wear the veil are like ‘uncovered meat’ who attract sexual predators sparked outrage around Australia yesterday.
Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali, the nation’s most senior Muslim cleric, compared immodestly-dressed women who do not wear the Islamic headdress with meat that is left uncovered in the street and is then eaten by cats.
Politicians including Prime Minister John Howard, community leaders and a large number of Muslims condemned the mufti’s comments amid calls that he should be deported to Egypt, his country of origin.
He has since been forced to apologise for his remarks.
In a Ramadam sermon in a Sydney mosque, Sheik al-Hilali suggested that a group of Muslim men recently jailed for many years for gang rapes were not entirely to blame.
There were women, he said, who ‘sway suggestively’ and wore make-up and immodest dress “and then you get a judge without mercy and gives you 65 years. But the problem, but the problem all began with who?” he said, referring to the women victims.
Addressing 500 worshippers on the topic of adultery, Sheik al-Hilali added: “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?
“The uncovered meat is the problem.”
He went on: “If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab (veil), no problem would have occurred.”
Women, he said, were ‘weapons’ used by Satan to control men.
The writer of the BBC piece is Nick Bryant, and he’s actually trying to make up this rape-excuser scumbag, who is the top cleric in Australia, look sympathetic!
Here’s the BBC’s feedback page– once you read it, if you’re as outraged as I am that the BBC tried to portray al-Hilali in a flattering, sympathetic light, let ’em know it.
I blogged last year about the rape case al-Hilali mentioned. The rapists in the case tried and failed to successfully utilize the multicultural “my culture made me do it” defense. Here are those posts:
Related/Update I – 12:31 PM: IRAN: MEN CAN HIT THEIR WIVES, CLERIC SAYS:
Tehran, 26 Oct. (AKI) – Iranian Grand Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi has issued a fatwa – a Muslim religious edict – saying it is legitimate for men to hit their disobedient wives. Shirazi, one of the leading clerics of the Shiite holy city of Qom, wrote on his website that “the Koran first of all advises a man to try and convince his wife to obey to him in a polite way and through advice, then by refusing to have sexual relations with her and, finally, if all this will have failed to make her reason, with physical punishment.”
The punishment, the leading cleric said, “must be light and considered an exceptional event, like surgery in case of a serious illness.”
Makarem Shirazi advised his readers against “physical punishment which leaves signs and wounds.” Women, he axplained, “are masochistic and sometimes they have a crisis and need light physical punishment to get back to normal.”
(Hat tip: Dunk)